A “WELL-respected” tourism pioneer, known along the North Wales coast through his work with birds of prey, died last week.
Mike Espley, a director of the Coastal Hawks Project, died on Wednesday, February 26.
The 56-year-old had run the project since it started in Rhyl 2009, and moved to Conwy in 2011.
Under his guidance, the group became a fixture at several events in Conwy and Denbighshire, entertaining members of the public with displays of birds of prey.
He had also served as a member of Rhyl Town Council from November, 2008 until May, 2012, representing the Foryd ward.
His wife, Maria Espley, said: “We were married for 32 years, and in all that time he was the most wonderful and respectful person to me.”
She added that he had been “fit and healthy” prior to his death.
Mr Espley also planned to open a bird of prey centre and medieval siege village in the former Butterfly Jungle, outside Conwy.
Kevin Bunn, his co-director on the project, said: “He was a close friend to everybody that he met, and as a friend and as a business partner I’m certainly going to miss him.”
He added: “Mike touched the lives of a lot of people within the company, and we will all miss him.”
A statement on the Coastal Hawks’ Facebook page added: “He touched many hearts in his short time and will never be forgotten.”
Cllr Andy Rutherford, Mayor of Rhyl, said: “We’re all quite shocked and surprised. It’s very sad news, he was well-respected.”
Mr Espley’s funeral will take place at 2pm on Friday, March 14, at St Thomas’ Church, Rhyl.