A REMARKABLE devotion to helping others is what Tony Martin will be remembered for.

The Zurich Community Trust volunteering manager died on Monday, September 18, following lung surgery – much to the shock of many in Swindon.

The 61-year-old was considered to be a trailblazer in helping to shine a light on countless good causes through his charitable work and now many have paid tribute to his dedicated and positive character.

Tony was born in Wembley but his family moved to Swindon in 1970 when his father’s company relocated to the town.

Growing up, he went to Kingsdown and Headlands schools.

Upon leaving, Tony decided to put his education straight into practice and with a knack for numbers, he soon joined the accounts department at Victoria Hospital in Old Town.

Following that he had a couple of other jobs with insurance companies before joining Zurich, formerly Allied Dunbar, in 1995 working in the Pensions Review Team. He later moved to work for the Zurich Community Trust in April 2000 where he had worked ever since.

“He loved his job and I think he was just inspired by the people he met and he just loved meeting new people,” his sister Ann Adams said.

“He really believed in the work he did and it comes across in what he achieved from where he was so passionate.

“It was pure chance Tony got into that line of work but once he got into it there was no stopping him.

“It is not surprising that so many people have paid tribute to him but it is definitely overwhelming. People have been so kind and offered so much support and I am really proud of what he did in his life. He clearly had an impact in Swindon.”

Tony suffered from asthma from a young age and while the condition prevented him from doing many things, it also made him appreciate what he did have.

It was through work that Tony met his wife Val and after many years of marital bliss, he sadly lost the love of his life three years ago.

The couple share two step children and three grandchildren.

In 2014 Tony was honoured by then High Sheriff of Wiltshire William Wyldbore-Smith in recognition of his “outstanding” commitment to the work of Zurich Community Trust in promoting philanthropy and volunteering in the workplace and inspiring others to do the same.

As well as helping dozens of charities, he also chaired the successful Involve Swindon – a network of companies and other organisations to encourage employees to volunteer their time in the local community.

Fiona Prinzi, director of service development at Swindon Carers Centre, said: “He was one in a million.

“It was Tony and ZCT who helped us to launch the Young Carer Award in 2010 when he provided not just funding but enthusiasm and encouragement. Five years on and we are working with 61 schools on this award which helps young carers to feel more supported in school and achieve better in line with their peers.

“Over the years, I became good friends with Tony and I will really miss getting a call or email with ‘hello sweetie, meet for coffee?’. Tony always found time for every single person he met and gave me some sound advice and support over the years. He made me feel like I could achieve anything and Swindon Carers Centre could achieve anything.

“I will miss him dearly and we must continue with the work Tony set up and keep charities and businesses working together for the benefit of our whole community in Swindon and I know we will all do that.”

Pam Webb, head of the Zurich Community Trust, knew Tony for 22 years and will never forget his iconic saying “hello darling”.

“He had a smile that lit up every room and he was one of those ‘half full’ characters that was always kind to the people he met. He was never miserable and he had a real knack of making sure that everyone he was dealing with feel special and optimistic,” she said.

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland added: “Tony was an inspirational figure whose work in the voluntary sector was of national significance. His work as chair of Involve Swindon broke new ground in bringing together the public sector and local companies in order to improve volunteering opportunities for employees.

“He believed in Swindon and what we have to offer. It was an honour to have known him and his death is a huge loss.”

Richard Hill, CEO of Voluntary Action Swindon, worked with Tony at Zurich until he left to work in the voluntary sector.

“Tony was a tremendous help to me in finding my way round the sector and helping me to establish relationships with people and groups in it," he said.

"Nearly everyone knew Tony and had such a lot of respect and affection for him, so an introduction via Tony always gave me a head start.

“He was a tremendous help to Voluntary Action Swindon (VAS) in facilitating our contribution to Involve (the corporate volunteering initiative that he helped set up) and the Pride of Swindon Awards. He also introduced me to key contacts at Swindon Borough Council, which has helped VAS forge collaborative working relationships there.”

Sue Dunmore, CEO of Volunteer Centre Swindon, added: “I had the pleasure of working with Tony to present the work of Involve Swindon at national and international volunteering conferences.

“A highlight of each year was working with Tony to deliver the Pride of Swindon awards

Tony was always a live wire, full of enthusiasm and a can do attitude that enthused all who met him. His impact on local charities and the community was immense. We will all miss him dreadfully.”

Even people who only recently met Tony had heard about his work in the community including Charlie Paradise, volunteering and involvement manager at Community Health & Wellbeing for Swindon Borough Council.

“In April this year I had the honour of meeting Tony, someone who I knew had an excellent reputation throughtout Swindon and straight away he grasped the important of our service and wanted to support it,” she said.

“It was incredible refreshing to meet someone who wanted to keep building, was forward thinking and very much a man of his word.

"Tony understood the power of volunteering and the positive effects it can have on the wellbeing of local people and he has created a legacy of encouraging businesses to see the benefits of community work.

"Our team would describe Tony as a real pocket rocket – full of energy, charisma and a ‘let’s do it’ attitude. A true Swindon legend.”

Tony’s funeral will be held at the Supermarine Sports and Social Club due to the large number of people expected on Monday, October 16, at 1.30pm.

A short service will then be held at the crematorium.

Donations can be made to the Swindon Women’s Refuge and Swindon Young Carers.