When Ray had to stand down as Wimbledon President and relinquish all philatelic duties the Society presented Ray with a Testimonial.
A Tribute to Ray from Barbara Priddy (Wimbledon & District P.S. Hon. Secretary)
With Ray's passing, the philatelic world has lost a leading expert on postal mechanisation, and the members of Wimbledon & District Philatelic Society have lost a leader, counsellor and friend after 52 years of membership. For 50 of those years Ray served the Society first as Treasurer, then as President, combining this position with that of Publicity Officer and Sales Officer. Although we knew his health was in a fragile state - he had previously had to undergo treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma and had had heart surgery - It was an enormous shock when he telephoned just before he was due to give his 25th Presidential display in May to say that he would be unable to do so.
I first met Ray when I joined the Society in 1982, and his kindness and helpfulness towards a new member who, looking back, really didn't know much about what she was doing, were the epitome of all that is best about local societies, and encouraged me to take the steps towards specialisation and research. He himself was already a master of the field of postal mechanisation, and until the end kept up with all the developments in that rapidly changing area. Each members' evening and Presidential evening brought new and exciting displays of his latest research, and each competition night brought beautifully presented entries of unusual subjects which never failed to win one of the Society's trophies, very often the Sloan Cup for the best overall entry. What fewer may have known is that he also had a very fine collection of the Marianne de Dulac issue, both stamps and postal history, and had a further interest in epreuves de luxe. Like all philatelists, we agreed that there were never enough hours in the day to follow up all the varied and fascinating subjects that philately offers. Although he was a member of other, specialist societies, for whom and for the Surrey Fed he did many vital jobs, his dedication to Wimbledon was never-failing. Even when he was in hospital in June, he telephoned to give his last ever President's report to AGM. He said that he had enjoyed every minute of his philatelic life; that he had met some great philatelists and some lovely people - and some unexpected philatelists, including the man who had repaired his father-in-law's lorries in Aberdeen. He had seen some amazing displays, and what had given him great pleasure was to see some members, who had had just ordinary collections when they joined the Society, become real philatelists under the influence of the Society. He was sorry he had to bow out, but he couldn't help it. We're all very sorry too, Ray, and we shall always remember you with admiration, gratitude and affection.
Society Treasurer, Steve Teuma (L), presenting the Patrick Cup to Ray Downing (R) at the 2015-16 Society Competition.
Sadly, this was to be the last WDPS meeting Ray attended.