RHYL'S "last donkey man" will be celebrated by family and friends following his recent death.
Kenneth Edward Jones, a well known figure on Rhyl beach, died aged 80 on January 17 after being cared for at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan.
Part of a grand tradition of donkey rides stretching back to 1848, Mr Jones was a familiar sight to Rhyl residents and holidaymakers, but his family paid a touching tribute to Mr Jones's life away from the promenade.
His wife Alice, daughter Susan and son Steven, said: "He was part of Rhyl history. The family was known as the "cockers", as Kenneth's father could ride a cock horse - rodeo style - until it was tame.
"Kenneth ran a beach patrol for many years, which was a great job for young men in the summer, who threw themselves into the water to save people."
Mr Jones, an animal enthusiast, did not only care for donkeys, but also for horses, greyhounds, chickens, ducks and, most importantly, canaries.
At one point he owned more than 40 birds, breeding champion specimens and being selected as a judge at canary show in Ireland.
The family said: "He wasn't just a donkey man. He worked as a foreman steel fixer, and that was very important to him. He had as many friends in the building trade as when he was down at the sea.
"The older he got, the more he would talk about his army days. He was a member of the 383 Light Regiment from 1949 to 1951 and the TA 234 from 1951 to 1956.
"Part of his regiment went to Korea and they got wiped out. Not many of them came home. He never went further than shooting blanks on the training field, but I think they ended up being the best days of his life."
In his later days, Mr Jones made use of his fields near Vale Road to grow vegetables, and put his construction experience to work building a green house and other projects by hand, with the help of his friends.
The family said: "He loved watching Dad's Army, Porridge and Rising Damp, and put them on rather loudly. He went from a fearsome fella to a gentle teddy bear with grandchildren climbing over him pulling his hair. He was well loved and well respected. He could talk the ears off a donkey!
"When he was in hospital, even in his last weeks of his life he was very interested in caring for his animals. The man was fighting for his life, but he made sure the chickens got their bread. He was very sweet."
Mr Jones is survived by wife Alice, children Susan and Stephen, daughter in law Margaret, siblings John, Joe, Eileen, Jean, Vera and Beryl, his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The funeral will take place tomorrow at St Thomas' Church at 12.45 pm followed by a committal at Colwyn Bay Crematorium.