WHITNASH is mourning the loss of long-standing councillor and town champion Tony Heath.
Tony, who served on both Whitnash Town Council and Warwick District Council, passed away at home on September 23, surrounded by his family following a period of ill-health.
Tony had been instrumental in forming the independent Whitnash Ratepayers Association in 1977, together with fellow councillor Bernard Kirton, and they both stood as candidates, winning seats on the then parish council.
Over the following years, their Ratepayers Association – which later became the Whitnash Residents Association – would go on to take all the seats on Whitnash Town Council.
A formidable figure in local Whitnash politics, Tony had been a town and parish councillor for over 40 years. He joined the parish council in 1974, and had served continuously, apart from an eight year period when his wife Jenny, was ill.
He was chairman of the then Whitnash Parish Council from 1981 to 1983, and mayor of Whitnash twice – first in 2001/2 and again in 2017/18. After he had returned to the council, he used one of his terms as mayor to help raise funds for the Cancer Unit at Walsgrave Hospital which had treated his wife.
Tony also has the honour of becoming deputy chairman of Warwick District Council.
Tony was born in neighbouring Stratford, and in his youth was an army cadet, who later went on to join the Territorial Army. He met Jenny at age of 17 and they got married in 1964, going on to have three children and six grandchildren.
During the 1960s, Tony worked at the International Stores in Stratford, becoming manager, and soon after went on to become a sales rep for HJ Heinz and other leading brands. He ran discos at Bearley and the Drill Hall in Stratford, hosting some top performers over the years, including reggae legend Jimmy Cliff.
Tony and Jenny moved to Leamington in 1969, and when he joined Whitnash Parish Council in 1974, he became involved with the Christmas Lights, hanging baskets, and was one of the founder members of the Whitnash Twinning Association.
Tony bought and ran a recruiting business in Rugby, and went on to recruit for construction companies in Saudi Arabia, recruiting workers from India and Manila who then helped to build the King Faisal Cancer Research hospital and the Saudi air force headquarters.
In 1980 he became chairman of the VS Rugby Football Club who went on win the FA Vase at Wembley.
During the 1980s, Tony and Jenny bought and ran a rest home in Claremont Road, Leamington, and after selling this, Tony went on to work in security at the NEC for a few years where he was a Union Rep.
As well his council activities, Tony served as chair of St Margaret’s School PTA and was chair of Governors at Myton School. He was chairman of the Whitnash Youth Club for 19 years, and at one time was a director at Leamington Football Club, whose New Windmill Ground on Harbury Lane is actually in Whitnash.
In recent years, Tony ran a parcel delivery company until he retired, and bought a chauffeur company that carried out corporate work.
He suffered a major heart attack in 2016, but recovered, and returned to his many council duties. More recently, he was chairman of both Whitnash Town Council’s Finance Committees, and the Civic Centre and Library Project Committee. He had been heavily involved in the planning, development, and in securing funding for, the new Whitnash Civic Centre & Library project, which is expected to open before the end of this year.
His life has always been busy with council related work, and his dream was to have a new Civic Centre in Whitnash. Sadly, he will not get to see the project that he worked so tirelessly on for so many years completed.
However, it will remain an impressive legacy for a man who devoted so much of his diverse life to the town, and residents of the town, he lived in for so many years – Whitnash.
Tributes from colleagues and former colleagues from his time with both Whitnash Town Council and Warwick District Council have been paid over the last few days.
Andrew Day, leader of Warwick District Council, said: “A genuine community champion with a lion-heart, Tony was a long serving councillor and hardworking leader of the Whitnash Residents Association group. Renowned for his straight-talking, colleagues from all parties will miss Tony’s good humour, leadership and pragmatic approach to getting things done.”
Current Whitnash mayor Adrian Barton said: “His greatest achievement has been his vision to build a new Civic Centre for Whitnash, if it was not for Tony and Judy (Falp), this would not have been built – he may not have seen it finished, but it will be a long lasting legacy for Whitnash.
“He was a man who I looked up to and took great pride in having the pleasure to know and work with.”
Fellow town and district councillor Judy Falp said: “I have worked with Tony on Whitnash Town Council for over 28 years, and the district council for over 18 years. I am also on the committee of Whitnash Youth Club. But our most important connection was that we became very good friends. He was somebody I could go to for advice and support and in turn I worked closely with him to achieve a Civic Centre and Library for Whitnash. There was rarely a day when we had not spoken to each other during the last few years. I will miss him so much, but I am very grateful that he was one of my best friends and that my life and that of the residents have been enhanced by his hard work and dedication to Whitnash.”
Former Whitnash Councillor Kitty Crutchley said: “Tony was an old school councillor like Bernard Kirton and myself, and was always on hand to assist and give helpful advice to people. He was very professional and well liked. He was a true friend together with his wife Jenny to myself and my late husband, and he will be sadly missed.”