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A tribute to Ashley Winter OBE

articleindex follow modules Array 1 Rob Williamson, Chief Executive with the late Ashley Winter OBE in 2015

It is with great sadness that I want to pay tribute to Ashley Winter, the former chair of the Community Foundation, who has passed away.

Ash was a well-known figure in the region’s business and public sectors when he joined the Community Foundation’s Board of trustees in 2008. Ash and his wife Gill had also already established their Winter Family Fund at the Foundation to give back to causes close to their hearts in and around their community in Corbridge and the Tyne Valley. When the Community Foundation’s Board was considering who might succeed Hugh Welch as our chair as he came to the end of his term of office, Ash’s name was quickly in the frame. His experience in deftly chairing bodies with stakeholders from different sectors and his existing commitment to community philanthropy made him the stand-out candidate. Ash ably took on the Chair role and quickly made himself available as a support and sounding board to the whole staff team.

He was, in particular, a great source of sage guidance to me as at a time when I was still in the early stages of my tenure as CEO. And, in that first year or so, we worked very closely on some difficult challenges as the Community Foundation adapted to the impact of the economic downturn. Ash was equally well liked and respected by his fellow trustees. He always ensured that everyone’s contribution was valued and heard, but also that meetings were effective and always reached sound, consensus decisions – which is easier said than done in a room full of passionate, opinionated people!  He was also a great ambassador for our work at events and speaking engagements, often with Gill there too. As a family, they also opened their home to host events for us. In his family philanthropy with Gill, Ash remained modest – though we were delighted that as a couple they were celebrated for their giving as finalists for the philanthropy category at the 2017 North East Charity Awards.

Ash retired from the Community Foundation’s Board in 2016, having overseen a smooth transition to his successor Fiona Cruickshank OBE. But he continued his support for us, taking on an honorary vice-president role and advocating for our work and for causes in our area.

Earlier this year we heard from Ash the news that he had been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Everyone at the Community Foundation was devastated, though Ash himself remained characteristically upbeat and stoic. Sadly, his illness progressed rapidly, and he died at the end of March.

We will remember Ash with huge fondness and with gratitude for his commitment to the Foundation and to communities across the whole region. Like many others who knew and worked with him, we will miss his calm style and warm good humour enormously. Our thoughts are with Gill and their children, and with their wider family and friends, at this very difficult and sad time.

Rob Williamson