Tributes have been paid to a long-serving parish priest and his wife, who died within days of each other having lived in Midhurst for nearly 20 years.
Ray and Muriel Bunce, who lived in Guillards Oak, died aged 89 and 87 having been married for 61 years, with a joint funeral to be held on Wednesday.
The couple first met in 1947 when Ray was 19-year-old scout and Muriel was a 16 year-old girl guide in Norwood Green.
Ray, who was known for his work in many local parishes, including Graffham, Terwick, Rogate, Cocking, Easebourne and Midhurst, previously worked in Ealing where he was set up a branch of the Samaritans, which he directed for 15 years.
His daughter Katharine said the work was undoubtably very close to his heart and in some ways his most fulfilling accomplishment.
“He always recognized the importance of being able to listen, in non-judgmental fashion, to people in distress,” she said.
Muriel was a primary school teacher and was known for her cordon bleu baking skills.
The couple both had cancer but were very supported by their Christian faith.
While in hospital, Muriel wrote letters to Ray, as deafness made phone calls difficult. In one she wrote: “We have had a long haul together you and I, and now it’s time to look forward to the next stage together, an exciting prospect indeed.”
They were to depart within eight days of each other, he on October 24 and she on November 1. They leave four granddaughters and their children, Clive and Katharine, who cared for them at the end with help from MacMillan.
Katharine said: “For us it was a very special time, and a fitting way to repay them both for everything they had done for us. I have been very touched by calls from quite a number of people, telling me what a help and support Ray was able to be to them, during some crisis point in their lives. We shall all miss them but there is a great deal to be thankful for.”
The funeral will be held at Chichester Cathedral on Wednesday at 2.30pm. For details call Midhurst Funeral Care on 01730 813264.