Former Mayor of Caerphilly County Borough Leon Gardiner has been named in the New Year’s Honours list.
Mr Gardiner, 85, will receive a British Empire Medal for his services to to the community. A much-loved Labour councillor for 45 years, representing the Argoed, Cefn Fforest, and Blackwood wards, he stepped down as a councillor before the 2017 council elections.
Mr Gardiner told Caerphilly Observer: “I’m shocked – It’s an honour.
“But if people think I’m worthy, I must be worthy and I’m happy to take it. I don’t know what my mother would say.”
Entering local politics always seemed likely for Mr Gardiner, who was politically active from a young age.
He said: “I joined the Labour Party with my father when I was 16 and when I was 21 I became a full member. I wanted to be a councillor so I could help the community.
“I have a lot of lovely memories while serving as a councillor, but my best memory is marrying my wife, Alma.”
For more than 20 years, Mr Gardiner has been a supporter of T? Hafan Children’s Hospice and MacMillan Cancer Support.
During his spell as Mayor of Caerphilly County Borough, Mr Gardiner helped raise around £18,000 for the two charities.
He said: “I always have time for T? Hafan and MacMillan. Anytime they need me I always want to help.”
In November 2016, concerned that a local special needs unit had lost its vehicle, he set about starting a fund with his own money and invited friends and family to donate to the fund instead of giving Christmas Cards. By January 2017 the unit received £750.
Mr Gardiner previously worked as a caretaker at Blackwood Comprehensive School and lived in the school bungalow with his wife and their daughters – a period he described as “the happiest time of my life.”
He has been an active governor at a number of schools and has spoken at numerous assemblies and functions over the years and has talked about a whole range of subjects, including the Royal Mint and National Holocaust Memorial Day.
Other Welsh recipients in the New Year’s Honours include Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, who gets an OBE for services to cycling, and triathlete Helen Jenkins who will be presented with an MBE.