RETIRED TAFE boss Ron Wilkins became so devoted to his adopted hometown of Howlong he painted its old rubbish bins in his spare time.
Painting street furniture was just one of numerous contributions Mr Wilkins made to the Murray River town where he lived since the mid-1980s.
The former shire councillor died last Thursday at the age of 85 after having been diagnosed with an incurable lung condition three years ago.
His friend and fellow Howlong identity Keith Duggan lauded Mr Wilkins’ community service, which included creating the Howlong History Group, establishing the Howlong flower show, serving the Lions Club and the Anglican church, and cataloguing articles from the town’s newsletter.
He also contributed to the Scouting movement for 54 years.
“Ron was involved in anything that was Howlong,” Mr Duggan said.
“He served on the old Hume Shire Council, he was responsible for the pioneer park at the entrance to Howlong, he’s been trying to get a heritage walk up and running and in any spare time he had he would go and paint the seats, shelters and rubbish bins around town.
“If they were changing the names of towns ours would be Wilkinsvale or Wilkinstown — he was Howlong.”
Mr Wilkins grew up in Armidale and Griffith before moving to Sydney, where he joined the railways and became a mechanical engineering teacher.
After serving as principal of Sydney technical colleges, Mr Wilkins moved to Albury to lead the city’s TAFE.
Following 3½ years, Mr Wilkins retired at the age of 58 and became a passionate advocate for Howlong as a Hume Shire councillor from 1990 to 1995.
“We adopted the town and the town adopted us — it’s a wonderful, friendly place,” Mr Wilkins told The Border Mail in 1998 after being named Hume citizen of the year.
Mr Duggan said Mr Wilkins’ commitment to Howlong remained to his final days.
“Even in his last week he was writing letters to Corowa Shire about the list of duties he did around town and asking them to appoint somebody to replace him,” Mr Duggan said.
“He was just a wonderful man.”
Mr Wilkins is survived by his wife of 60 years Judy, daughter Deborah and three grandchildren.
His funeral will be held at Howlong’s St Thomas’ Anglican Church from 1pm tomorrow.
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