An "exceptional" war veteran who captured the hearts of thousands of runners in High Wycombe as unofficial parkrun volunteer has passed away.

Ray Ramon, who was known as both 'Ray' and 'Eddie', was a well-known character around the town and at the weekly parkrun on The Rye.

Mr Ramon would often be seen at the 1km race marker offering words of encouragement and high-fives to runners, and flowers have even been left in his regular spot in his memory.

He would also sometimes give money to some of the children at the junior parkrun on Sundays for ice cream.

According to parkrun organisers, Mr Ramon never took part in the races himself as he had usually already ran a 10km route around High Wycombe beforehand, and never signed up as an official volunteer because he did not want to let anyone down if he could not make it.

The American Vietnam Air Force veteran reportedly first came to High Wycombe in the 1960s as a member of the USAF stationed at Daws Hill.

He met and married a local girl before they moved to the US when he was deployed back home.

They stayed there until he retired in the early 2000s and when his mother-in-law fell ill, the married couple moved back to Wycombe to look after her, staying in the area after she passed away.

Nick Sendall, co-event director at the Wycombe Parkrun, described Mr Ramon as a "much-loved and well-known character" who "captured the hearts of so many people".

He paid tribute to his "kindness, generosity, selflessness and enthusiasm" and remembered how thrilled Mr Ramon was when parkrun organisers discovered it was going to be his 80th birthday back in 2018 and surprised him with balloons.

In a Facebook post that has been seen more than 27,000 times, Mr Sendall said: "Ray was a stalwart at both Wycombe Rye parkrun on Saturday and Junior parkrun on Sunday. He was never an official volunteer and never wanted any formal recognition. He was truly astounded and humbled when we celebrated his 80th birthday.

"But the 1km mark will never be the same again - his unparalleled enthusiasm for everyone's participation, regardless of one's speed or ability, as you entered the final km will never be matched, or forgotten. 'You got this!' 'You go girl!' and his trademark high-fives are irreplaceable. Such an inspiration and a tragic loss.

"We will remember him with enormous affection and when we are together again we will find some way to pay our respects with a fitting tribute."

Suggestions have already been made for a permanent memorial to Mr Ramon at The Rye, including a tree or plaque, and Mr Sendall said this idea will be discussed with Buckinghamshire Council.

Hundreds of people on social media shared their own memories of him.

Rachel Bowerman said: "Such sad news, I used to walk to work through the Rye and every morning Ray would say hello and we'd exchange a few words as he jogged by. This was several years ago now, but it really stuck with me. His friendliness brightened my day and I was inspired by his dedication to staying fit."

Jenny Hutchinson said: "What sad news! He was such a kind, jolly man who never failed to put a spring in my step whenever I ran past him on park runs. And whenever I came across him in town too! Sending love to his family and will think of him fondly every time I pass his spot in the Rye."

Ross Jeavons said the parkrun "won't feel the same without him", adding: "This guy was everything that makes sport great - I have no doubt that his enthusiasm and passion will have helped to get runners both young and old hooked. Always blew me away how he was there rain or shine."

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"Whether you knew Mr Ramon and want to share any stories or pictures, or you just want to send your thoughts, this is a space for you to pay tribute. Please know we will moderate content to ensure this remains a respectful space."

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We are so sorry to hear this news. We knew Ray from many years of walking and running on the Rye. He wasn't just encouraging to park runners, but to all runners (and joggers, and walkers!) and we've had many a run or walk - and of course, a chat - alongside him over the years. We had a fascinating conversation with him about his time in the air force after we visited the bunker in Wycombe Abbey, and were so pleased to see him back in the park after the first lockdown last year. He will be missed.

Jamie Fullwood

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Ray was a hell of a character. My father was also stationed at Daws Hill in the 60's and a few years ago i asked him if had known Ray back then. It turned out he did and remembered Ray as being "a great guy, funny as hell, a very dangerous boxer in the ring, and being crazy as heck but in a good way". I have known Ray for many years and he will be missed, he was a kind supportive individual, we need more like him. Vaya con Dios mi amigo.

Peter Jemmett

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Following on from a heart attack I started on parkrun and although all I ever really shared with Ray was a high-five and some lie about it being "not far to go", he became one of a number of reasons for me to keep returning as I tried to regain my fitness. A caring, inspirational gentleman who showed a genuine interest in all those who he came to support each week, whether it be parkrun or junior parkrun. He will be sorely missed by many when we all eventually return down the Rye.

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Bucks Free Press: Sharing a bit more than just a high-five at one of the last parkrun's before lockdownSharing a bit more than just a high-five at one of the last parkrun's before lockdown
Sharing a bit more than just a high-five at one of the last parkrun's before lockdown
Bucks Free Press: Ray at the 1km markerRay at the 1km marker
Ray at the 1km marker
Bucks Free Press: Ray at Junior parkrunRay at Junior parkrun
Ray at Junior parkrun

Tarsem

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He was such a positive person. Loved his motivational words when passing his post at the park run.

Rupert Davies

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Ray was always a smiling and encouraging face. He unfailingly took the time to smile, say hello and ask how you were. A genuinely kind and memorable person, who we will miss.