Obituary: Brian Rees 1938 – 2015

Brian, who died last week, was much admired by many as a ‘hands on co-operator’ and someone who valued practical action to pious resolutions. He viewed co-operative values...

Brian, who died last week, was much admired by many as a ‘hands on co-operator’ and someone who valued practical action to pious resolutions. He viewed co-operative values as the means of providing firm foundations for collective action. Certainly Dr King of Brighton and his practical newsletters, who sparked the retail consumer co-operative movement, would have been his preferred hero to fellow Welshman Robert Owen.

Like most experienced co-operators Brian had wide-ranging interests in the local and wider community that is impossible to capture in any short appreciation. He felt privileged to serve on the Main Board of the Co-operative Group for eight years, until 2009, a time in which it rapidly increased size, improved results and paid a growing dividend. For a number of years, Brian also served on the Britannia Members’ Council. Many will remember the very active support Brian gave in drawing the Food Chief Executives attention to a large scale “Having Your Say’ survey of the food needs of older people organised by the Welsh Food Alliance.

He was a founding member and Chair of Bridgend Lifesavers Credit Union, providing ethical financial services to over 2,600 members. Brian had a great passion for environmental issues, which was emphasised in action at a community level. This passion and experience served him well when he chaired the Co-operatives Environmental Committee; and in South Wales as a Trustee/Chair of a Groundwork Environmental Trust.

For many years, Brian was a governor of the former Ogmore Comprehensive School and provided support for many activities. More recently, as the last chair of South Wales Area Committee, Brian worked towards introducing the co-operative schools concept within his locality.

Brian strongly reminds me of my favourite quotation: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” (Henry David Thoreau) Brian’s life was one truly well lived and his spirit to be emulated in our work in 2016. In fondly remembering Brian, our thoughts are very much with his wife Eileen and family at this difficult time.

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