Ron Purkis

A former councillor and champion race walker has died.

Ron Purkis, 77, died following a long battle with oesophagus cancer despite telling his family and friends he was in remission.

He was a Liberal Democrat councillor on Havant Borough Council in the Hart Plain ward from 2001 until he switched to Conservative in 2005.

After losing the fight for Battins ward in 2006 he left politics to concentrate on poetry and his love of walking – for which he had a lifelong passion and competed in competitions all over the world.

He was particularly proud of being a 'centurion', one of only 1,035 people who have walked 100 miles in a single day.

And in his role as a councillor the father of four spearheaded a campaign to inspire parents to ditch the car and walk their children to school instead.

Mr Purkis, of Puffin Walk, Wecock, had two children from his first marriage and married again later in life to his beloved wife Linda.

They had two children together: Elizabeth, now a 22-year-old university student, and Alex, a 17-year-old college student.

Linda died suddenly in 2004, aged just 52, leaving Mr Purkis devastated. He published a number of poetry anthologies in memory of her.

Daughter Elizabeth said: 'My dad was such a character. He loved getting on his soapbox and being in The News for different things.

'He was most proud of being a "centurion" and would go out and train for walking even when he was too ill to compete in competitions.'

While undergoing chemotherapy he was touched by the story of young Jodie Deeming, from Portsmouth, who was also undergoing cancer treatment.

He had penned more love poems for Linda and offered to donate all the profits from the latest published collection to Jodie and her family.

Councillor David Guest, deputy leader of Havant Borough Council, said: 'I am very sorry to hear of Ron's passing. He was always a very friendly and cheerful man, and as I understand it an accomplished athlete in his lifetime. It is a sad loss.' Mr Purkis's funeral was held yesterday at Portchester Crematorium.

Ron Purkis, born July 25, 1932, died August 18, 2009.