THE driving force behind plans for a statue in Walton to remember a war hero has died, aged 63.

Michael Turner suffered a heart attack and died at his Walton home.

Mr Turner spearheaded efforts to create a statue of Herbert Columbine after learning about the soldier’s heroic tale.

Campaigners are close to raising the £52,000 needed and the statue is set to be installed on the seafront next year.

The statue fund committee members have vowed to complete Michael’s work.

His widow, Jean, said: “Michael enjoyed everything to do with the statue.

There were a few of us involved with it, but it was his passion and he made it all happen.

“He was so pleased when we got planning permission. Michael had a lot of the details in his head about what needed to be done, but we will do everything we can to finish what he started for his sake.

“It’s heartbreaking he won’t be here when it goes up. But in a way, it is like a legacy he has left.”

Private Herbert Columbine, 24, from Walton, died at Hervilly Wood, France, on March 22, 1918. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his courage in holding enemy forces at bay for hours, so comrades could escape Tendring Council has given permission for the statue to be built in Marine Gardens.

Mrs Turner described her husband as a passionate man with a strong sense of humour.

She said: “Michael was a worker all his life. When he wasn’t able to work any more, he stayed positive and always wanted to be doing things.

“He was registered blind when he was about 40, but coped really well and refused to let it hold him back.

“He loved getting to know people and was very sociable, with a great sense of humour.

“His death was very sudden. I hope he realised how many friends he made and howmuch everybody cares.