Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Former Rotorua mayor farewelled

Friends and family of Ray Woolliams will be raising a glass to his life after saying goodbye to the former Rotorua mayor.

Thomas Raymond Woolliams, known to all as Ray, died at Cantabria Home and Hospital on September 22. He was 82.

His funeral was at Osbornes Funeral Home yesterday.

His son Craig said in his eulogy that people had remarked "it was an end of an era".

"But most of all we will miss his wicked sense of humour, enormous generosity, his loyalty and front-footed leadership.

"As kids we had everything we needed and more. But mum got even better gifts, like a VW Beetle and a Triumph Spitfire. I think I benefited from the Spitfire more than mum."

He said his father was the eternal optimist and very rarely complained about his lot.

"He was a glass is half full person ... and that applied to life and his wine glass, which was usually more than half full," he said.

Mr Woolliams was elected the 10th mayor of Rotorua City, from 1977 to 1979 and was the last mayor before the city amalgamated with the Rotorua County Council and became the Rotorua District Council in April 1979.

He was a keen fisherman and gardener as well as being involved in tourism businesses at Hell's Gate and Waimangu, operated the first independent supermarket in Rotorua, was an electrician and a successful deer farmer.

He was described as a true entrepreneur and environmentalist.

His daughter Christine Hobbs said it was important for people to know her father suffered from Alzheimer's disease for almost 10 years.

In May, Mrs Hobbs completed an Alzheimer's fundraiser in honour of her father by rowing 141km down the Waikato River.

Mrs Hobbs thanked those people who had cared for her father during his final years and his battle with Alzheimer's - particularly Lyn and Elaine from Alzheimer's Rotorua.

"He was honest to the core and he required that of everybody. He taught me to take a little when you need to, but give back more," she said.

Family friend Ken Harris finally got the last word, saying his mentor and friend loved to talk.

"I listened a lot to Ray over the years, all you really could do was listen because he did like to talk ... he always had the last word."

Mr Woolliams is survived by wife June, children Ann, Christine and Craig, and six grandchildren.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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