TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved bakery manager who died after suffering a heart attack.

Bill Valentine, 59, of Coedpoeth, had worked for the Village Bakery for nearly 40 years and news of his death on Sunday has shocked colleagues.

Mr Valentine was recently honoured as the 2010 Village Hero at the family-run Village Bakery in Minera, near Wrexham.

The award is given annually to a member of staff who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Friends and colleagues at the bakery, where he was a popular and highly-respected member of the team, have been left saddened by his death.

Bosses at the bakery said that Bill’s qualities summed up what was best about the company and that he was “Mr Village Bakery”.

A native of St Helen’s, Lancashire, Bill joined the Village Bakery in 1972 as a van driver and rose through the ranks to become bakery manager.

He also found somebody to be his valentine when he met and later married Marlene, his wife of 36 years, who worked in production until her retirement a few years ago.

After receiving the Village Hero accolade, Bill said: “I am really flattered that I have been named as the Village Hero, I really appreciate it. This kind of recognition and appreciation go a long way – it means a lot to me.”

Health problems had forced Bill to slow down last year and the directors, brothers Robin, Tim and Christien, the third generation of the Jones family to run the bakery, re-assigned him to a less onerous job.

Village Bakery joint managing director, Robin Jones, went back a long way with Bill.

He said: “When I was small Bill and Marlene used to baby sit me and he was a big part of the success of the Village Bakery.

“Bill was as steady as a rock. He was unflappable – nothing ever phased him and he was utterly dependable.

“Although he had suffered health problems over the past year or so, it came as a big shock to hear that he had passed away.

“He was a larger than life character with a ready smile and a kindly word. People warmed to him immediately and as a result he engendered a great deal of loyalty and affection from his friends and colleagues here at the Village Bakery.

“Bill will be greatly missed and our thoughts are very much with Marlene at this difficult time.”

The funeral will be held at St Tydfil’s Church, High Street, Coedpoeth on Wednesday, December 29, at 1.30pm, with donations going to the British Heart Foundation.