THE widow of a passionate jazz musician who was among the founding trustees of a community radio station has paid tribute to her late husband.

Grandfather-of-eight Terry Willits, from Startforth, Barnard Castle, died earlier this month, aged 80, after an illness.

His widow, Dr Pamela Grunwell, described it as "fitting" that her music-loving husband was born on St Cecilia’s Day – the patron saint of music – and died on St Valentine’s Day – the patron saint of love.

Loading article content

Mr Willits was born in South Shields but spent his childhood and youth in Darlington, where he attended Darlington Grammar School for boys.

After National Service, he trained as a geography teacher before becoming a lecturer and worked all over the country.

He had three children with his first wife, Shelagh, and eight grandchildren.

He married Dr Grunwell, in 1988, and the couple returned to the North-East in 2001.

Keen jazz musician Mr Willits became heavily involved with the local community and music scene and was a founding trustee of Radio Teesdale, for which he ran a weekly jazz programme.

He initiated Music at the Bowes, at the Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, was chairman of Durham Dales Action for Carers and deputy chairman of the Barnard Castle Citizens Advice Bureaux.

He was also a trustee of Teesdale Youth and Community Services and a trustee of The Witham, in Barnard Castle, where he organised celebrity jazz concerts.

Dr Grunwell, a retired university professor, said: “Terry’s constant love of jazz music was most clearly and publicly expressed in his establishment of the Teesdale Jazz Quartet. They played in many local venues.

“He also created and delivered a jazz education project in Teesdale’s secondary schools.

“We both shared a passion for Shakespeare’s plays in performance, especially at the Royal Shakespeare Company venues in Stratford-on-Avon and Newcastle.

“Macbeth was a particular favourite of his – it was his O-level play. I think he knew it by heart.”

Dr Grunwell thanked staff at the The Manor House, in Barnard Castle, Teesdale District Nurses, the carers from Middleton Care and Barnard Castle Surgery, particularly Dr Steven Rowan, for their care and support to Mr Willits during his illness.