Thetford remembers ‘wise and kind’ former mayor

Ray Key, former Mayor of Thetford, has passed away. Pictured at the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in 2012 with his hearing dog, Spud. Pictures by Studio Five. ANL-150705-101230001
Ray Key, former Mayor of Thetford, has passed away. Pictured at the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in 2012 with his hearing dog, Spud. Pictures by Studio Five. ANL-150705-101230001
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Tributes have been paid to a communinty champion and former mayor of Thetford who passed away last Sunday.

Ray Key, who held the position of mayor twice in 1997/8 and 2004/5, was a prominent figure in the town and volunteered his time to many causes.

Christine Steward, his eldest daughter, said the 81-year-old had enjoyed ‘a happy 14 years’ with his widow Alison, who served as his chaplain during his first mayoral term.

“He was kind and generous, and he was a wonderful dad,” she said.

“He was very wise, you could ask him anything and he didn’t get puzzled by anything.

“He and Alison had a happy 14 years of marriage, they travelled and took trips abroad. Dad liked travelling but it was nice for him to have Alison.”

Thetford Town Council issued a statement this week calling Ray’s passing a ‘sad loss’ and saying he ‘took Thetford to his heart, playing a large role in the community’.

After growing up in Acton, in west London, Ray moved from Middlesex to Thetford with his family in 1965, when Christine was seven.

He served as a town councillor for more than 20 years and as a district councillor, as part of the Labour party.

He was also a keen cricketer and played for Thetford Cricket Club. He was also a member of the Staniforth Bowls Club, and the Thetford Garden and Allotments Club.

“He loved his garden and his allotment, and loved walking on the common,” said Christine, who lives in Stowmarket.

The grandfather-of-five and great-grandfather-of-two had another companion - his hearing dog, Spud, who Christine said was ‘a loyal friend’ to her father for around three years.

Christine said: “For the last two years, since he underwent surgery, he has not done as much, but he did his best taking the dog out.”

He remarried in 2000 after his first wife, Kathleen, who also served as mayor, died in 1998. He has two daughters, one of whom lives in Turkey.

Christine said: “Both my mum and dad were big figures in the community.

“When Alison and dad married it was really nice for both of them. He had a very happy time with Alison, and she really looked after him.”

During his time in Thetford Ray served on several school governing bodies, on the committee and as a trustee of the Riversdale Centre, and also as a trustee of the Charles Burrell Museum.

He also helped to convert a derelict road bridge, at Three Nuns Bridges, into a pedestrian crossing for the town. Christine said a date for the funeral will be set in the next couple of weeks.