HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to the man known as 'Mr Kinver' who has died at the age of 76.

Retired pharmacist David Bills, a local author, historian and expert on Kinver, was known by almost everyone in the South Staffordshire village where he was born and bred and of which had an encyclopaedic knowledge.

Awarded the MBE in 2003 for his services to the Kinver community and work with the National Trust, which manages Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses, David was also heavily involved with Kinver Historical Society and a founder member of Kinver Civic Society.

His heartbroken wife of 50 years, Jane Bills, said: "He'd got an interest in anything to do with the village and was an absolute fountain of knowledge. If he didn't know the answer, he'd know where to find it. He just loved Kinver."

David passed away at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley on May 5 after suffering a fall in hospital where he was being treated for a chest infection.

"It was a terribly sad end," Jane said as she told of the many "absolutely wonderful letters and cards" she had received from shocked friends and villagers.

Many villagers also posted touching tributes on Kinver social sites after hearing the sad news.

Andy Calloway, who runs the KinverOnline website, said: "He was, by any measure 'Mr Kinver' and through his work he promoted the village and preserved its history for future generations."

He described him as a "kind, quiet gentleman who will be missed". While village stalwart Charlie Sadler said he was "a lovely human being with a dry wit".

Stourbridge News:

Historian Dr Paul Collins told the News he was "deeply saddened" to hear of David's death and he added: "I had known him for many years and was proud to call him a friend.

"David was widely known as ‘Mr Kinver’, and his knowledge of and passion for the village was widely known and respected. He knew everyone, and was always the first person to go to for contacts or information.

"In 1980, David jointly wrote the first published history of the Kinver Light Railway, an interest we both shared.

"When I came to write my own book on the tramway, far from being precious or protective of his knowledge and collection of material about it, David made it all available to me and my book is the better for this."

He added: "Another of his many interests was the Kinver Rock Houses, and without David’s involvement in their preservation and restoration, I doubt they would be the important attraction they are today. David Bills was a kind and affable person, generous with his time and knowledge. Like so many people, I will miss him greatly."

Born at Bills Pharmacy in Kinver High Street, David had followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father to become a pharmacist. Schooled in Kinver, he went on to attend Worcester Royal Grammar School and later trained to be a pharmacist in Portsmouth before returning to take over the family business which he ran until his retirement in 2005.

As well as his own interests, David also helped behind the scenes when wife Jane opened their well-tended back garden to the public.

Ken Graham, a past president of Kinver Rotary Club who had known David and his wife since moving to the village 35 years ago, said: “When we started the open garden weekend his help was invaluable and we had some wonderful concerts in their magnificent garden, raising several thousand pounds."

He added: “For his commitment to the village David, was deservedly awarded the MBE. He will be sadly missed by so many who I’m sure will always remember him as ‘Mr Kinver’."

As well as wife Jane, David is survived by his daughter Victoria and his brother John Bills and sister Anne Logan, and their children and grandchildren.

John, aged 82, said his younger brother would be "sadly missed". He said David would "do anything for anybody" and he added: "So many people knew him through the pharmacy and everything he did."

He recalled in their younger days that both he and David were big car fans and for his 21st birthday David had a 1953 Riley 2.5 litre which he was very proud of and he said: "He kept the car and it didn't turn a tyre for 25 years but when he retired he restored it to its original condition."

David's funeral is expected to be a small family affair at Stourbridge Crematorium due to the coronavirus crisis and social distancing rules but it is hoped a larger celebration of his life may be held in the future.