Tony was our ray of sunshine

TONY Ray had been described as a 'human dynamo', who used his retirement as a springboard to doing what used to be the preserve of daring young things.

By Tracey Sparling

TONY Ray had been described as a 'human dynamo', who used his retirement as a springboard to doing what used to be the preserve of daring young things. TRACEY SPARLING pays tribute to the inspirational pensioner who died on Sunday as reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star.

RARELY could you get a word in edgeways when Tony Ray phoned, brimming over with enthusiasm about his latest adventure.

Travelling became his passion when he retired from his job as a photographer with The Evening Star in 2000. He described becoming a pensioner as 'certainly another beginning'.

Within a week of retiring from the newspaper, he was tramping through a snowstorm on the slopes of Spain's highest mountain and over the next four years he went abroad 27 times.

Readers were treated to reports of his exploits around the globe - which included scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, walking the Great Wall of China, glacier trekking in the Swiss Alps, and at the age of 62 he trekked in Nepal.

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When he climbed to the highest point of Kilimanjaro at the age of 63, he was nicknamed `Papa' by one of the porters because of his age. It was his life's ambition to conquer the Tanzanian mountain, and he said afterwards: “I've never done anything so physically and mentally challenging. It meant pushing yourself all the way.”

He went on a budget to Egypt and found bed and breakfast for £3, and discovered more than a beach holiday when he went to Thailand and tried elephant trekking, kayaked through Mangrove Swamps and snorkelled with sharks. Of that adventure he said at the time: “Reef sharks they were, not too intimidating. They looked at me as an old fogey who should know better!”

Sometimes his wife Mary accompanied him to sunnier climes, but other times Tony set off on his own to satisfy his wanderlust. Never did he let his advancing years stop him achieving what many half is age would not dare to attempt.

At the age of 69 he was still doing 160 press ups a day, and could swim a length of Crown Pools underwater. He said being always active, keeping fit and having attitude was the secret to being able to live life to the full.

Photographs adorn the walls of their home in Humber Doucy Lane, Ipswich, celebrating his achievements.

Mary, his wife of 12 years, said: “We met dancing. He loved to dance. We did so much together and we had so many holidays. Last year we went with my daughter and her husband and my grandson and his partner to Minorca and we had never had a family holiday.

"Originally we did everything together but I have got Parkinson's disease so I didn't mind him going off on his own. He went round the world for three months last year or the year before. He enjoyed that and he always said he was pleased he had done it.

“We went to Scotland recently. He had booked to go on a coach and, at the last minute, I said I would go with him. I didn't know if I could manage it but we had an absolutely super time."

She added that he had been extremely busy over the last week; going to watch Ipswich Wanderers play, and picking up his grandson from school on Wednesday and the family had stayed for tea.

But it was Saturday when he did the most. Every week he cycled to Woodbridge and went for a swim before cycling back, but on Saturday he cycled there, swam for an hour and then had to walk back because he got a puncture.

Mary said the family were round for the afternoon and he played on the trampoline with his great granddaughter.

Tony had holidays planned in youth hostels across England and was also planning a month-long trip to Austria in September, and a trip to London to see The Sound of Music with one of his grandchildren.

His adventures followed a photographic career which saw photography change from large format plate cameras through the 50s and 60s to 35mm and in the 90s to digital.

From the Suffolk Show, point to point racing, aerial photography and dramatic news incidents Tony was there.

Evening Star columnist and former picture editor Dave Kindred said: “Tony was a larger than life character who had already served for several years as a top photographer on the team when I joined the company in 1963. He was great fun to work with and enjoyed the fun side of life both professionally and socially.

“He was a well known figure at Portman Road during the great days of Alf Ramsey leading the team to the Division One Championship. His photograph of Ray Crawford heading a goal to help secure the title in the final game of 1962 is one of the greatest moments captured on film in local sporting history.”

Anne Gould, editor of Let's Talk magazine which Tony also contributed travel articles to, said: “Tony was one of those amazing people who managed to live his dream. Retirement meant trekking to Everest base camp, walking the Great Wall of China, scuba diving in crystal blue oceans.

“How many of us will be able to tick all our “to do” boxes? As someone who managed to achieve this and more, Tony was an inspiration.”

The great grandfather hailed from Dorset originally.

Today as family and friends mourn the passing of the inspirational pensioner, we bring you this selection of pictures from his 40-year career, and glimpses of those exciting later years.

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To pay tribute to Tony, write to Your Letters, the Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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