Hundreds line street after death of ‘loving and kind’ local hero

Hundreds lined Portishead High Street to say goodbye to a beloved war hero.

Ron Morey, who fought with the RAF in the Second World War, died of natural causes aged 96 on January 8.

More than 200 people clapped and waved, socially distanced, as Ron’s hearse went along the High Street before his funeral on February 9.

His 14-year-old great-granddaughter Megan said: “My great-granddad is my hero. He was a cheeky, funny, loving and kind person.

“Every time I would visit him and give him a hug he would wrap his legs around my ankles so I couldn’t move and I’d be stuck. He always was such a joker.”

Anti-aircraft gunman Ron was highly decorated for his efforts through the last three years of the war, earning a Normandy Campaign Medal and many other honours.

Born in Devon, he was only 18 when he joined the RAF in 1942, before serving in the D-Day landings two years later.

His son Rodney, 68, said: “Life dramatically changed for Ron in October 1945 when he met Mary at the wedding of his oldest brother, Vic.

“Ron was the best man, and Mary was a bridesmaid to the bride, her sister Hilda. The couple began to get to know each other and fell in love.”  

Ron and Mary married in 1948 and had a big family, including seven great-grandchildren. Rodney said Ron is sadly missed by Mary after 72 happy years of marriage.

After he left the forces in 1947, Ron went into farming and got a job at what is now Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place in South Gloucestershire. At the time, the land was known as the Hollywood Tower Estate.

hundreds line street after death of loving and kind local hero - Hundreds line street after death of 'loving and kind' local hero
Ronald and Mary Morey with their grandchildren

“As head herdsman he and two others hand milked 40 jersey cows, twice a day,” said Rodney.

Ron’s daughter Pauline, 71, added: “He wasn’t like a war hero when he was growing up. He was just my dad. He’d talk about the cows and say, ‘Hazel’s gonna blow, she ate too much grass.’

“He never liked the indoors. He loved being outside, either gardening or with cattle.”

After four years Ron became farm manager, then in 1966 the estate was bought by Bristol Zoo. Ron found himself looking after rhinos, giraffes, okapis and other exotic animals.

“He went from milking cows to land work, making hay, planting sweetcorn,” said Pauline. “He carried on until he was 70. He loved it.”

After retirement Ron moved to Portishead. Through the Normandy Veteran’s Association, he tracked down an old girlfriend from his time stationed in Holland during the war. He and Mary became close friends with her.

“They met up many times, fondly remembering the times she smuggled him cakes out of the café where she worked,” said Rodney.

Pauline recalls her dad became emotional when he visited a Dutch graveyard where some of his friends had been buried.

“He nearly collapsed because a lot of his mates were there,” she said. “They were only 17 or 18 years old. They didn’t have the life that he did.”

Pauline says Ron had a lifelong fear of tunnels and dark places because of an experience in the war.

“At one stage he was in a trench and it fell in on them, so he was basically buried alive,” she said. “To get through that, he did really well.”

Rodney added: “Ron was a quiet, reserved and proud man and you could say he loved his animals more than people and he was definitely more at home with his cows.

“He would do anything he could to help people out and would often be lending various bits of machinery to the other local farmers.

“More than anything else, Ron loved his family and was never happier than when they were around him. He loved it when the whole family would come round on a Sunday for dinner.”

hundreds line street after death of loving and kind local hero 1 - Hundreds line street after death of 'loving and kind' local hero
Ronald and Mary Morey

Ron was in poor health for a month before his death.

Pauline said: “We had a month to get used to it, because he wasn’t eating or drinking. It was just age-related.

“It was really weird because everyone in the family had come up to see him the week before he died. Something made us get there that week.

“He was at home the whole time. He said the only way he was leaving was in a box.”

Although only 20 people could attend the funeral due to coronavirus restrictions, Pauline says it was a moving moment when a bugler played the Last Post at the crematorium.

Ron’s granddaughter Louise said: “He has been my rock, my friend, my hero and I could not be prouder to call someone my granddad.

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“He was a proud man and you would never catch him in his pyjamas, unshaven or – in later years – without his teeth in, even when he was ill.

“When I was little and he would tuck me into bed, he would sit there for ages just stroking my head until I fell asleep. He never shouted, unless watching sport.

“Granddad had a very funny and wicked sense of humour. He loved his family more than anything. We used to enjoy watching wrestling on the television on a Saturday afternoon as a family.”

Louise says Ron never liked talking about the war until her children came along and he started to open up to them.

“I recall one time he told them a story about how he was injured and taken into the medical tent,” she said.

“While there a piece of shrapnel ripped through the tent and stopped an inch from his chest.

“When he put on his suit, beret and medals to go on parade he stood taller and was so proud.

“He was very honoured and proud of all his medals, which he would polish until they shone brightly. A light has certainly gone out of our lives and a big hole remains. We loved him so much and will miss him everyday.”

Louise’s son Peter, 19, described Ron as a “wonderful man”.

He said: “I remember being in his garden in the middle of summer. With a big grin on his face he told me to wait on the patio as he disappeared inside.

“When he reappeared he had a magnifying glass. He went and collected a few leaves from the surrounding hedges and taught me how to use a magnifying glass to make a fire.

“He would always try and teach me little things he was taught when he was younger. He would bring a smile to everyone’s faces with his cheeky attitude and I will miss him greatly.”

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