A VETERAN whose warm heart, good manners and desire to help others made him a popular character in his home town has died aged 86.

For more than 20 years, Ronald Smith visited every household in Sedgefield, selling Remembrance Day poppies on behalf of the Royal British Legion.

A Sedgefield lad born and bred, the great-grandfather also served on the parish council during the 1970s and 1980s, was a member of Sedgefield Retained Fire Brigade and regularly helped out at Sedgefield Racecourse.

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He was an enthusiastic participant in the town’s Shrove Tuesday ball game – only missing one tournament when he was on his honeymoon, was a member of the local bowls club and attended repatriation ceremonies led by Sedgefield Village Veterans.

His wife Audrey has been inundated with sympathy cards following his death on January 14.

Mrs Smith, 77, said her husband would be sadly missed by his family and friends.

“He was a quiet man but very kind and always polite and smartly dressed,” she said. “Even at the end, when he was in hospital, he was very polite to the nurses - always saying please and thank-you.”

Mr Smith was born in Sedgefield on August 3 1926 - the youngest son of Jack and Rachel Smith.

As well as football, horseracing and dancing, Mr Smith’s great love was the countryside and he enjoyed shooting game with his father as a youngster.

After school, he worked as a farm labourer for Captain Ramsden but was conscripted into the General Service Corp in 1945 when he was 19.

During his National Service Mr Smith was trained for deployment to Japan but was later moved to the Catering Corp following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the war, Mr Smith returned to Sedgefield and his job as a farm labourer. He met Mrs Smith at a dance at Morden Parish Hall in the early fifties. The couple married at St Edmund’s Church in February 1955 and had three children, Jacqueline, Ruth and Ronald.

Before his retirement, Mr Smith worked for Sedgefield District Council and Norsk Hydro Polymer in Newton Aycliffe.

He was a family man and was devoted to his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at Sedgefield Methodist Church at 10am tomorrow (Tuesday, January 29).