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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 20:14 GMT
Tribute comfort for 'Grav' family
Ray Gravell playing for the British Lions against South Africa in 1980

The family of Wales rugby legend and BBC presenter Ray Gravell say they have been overwhelmed by the tributes after his death at the age of 56.

The Wales and Lions centre widely known as Grav had a suspected heart attack on holiday near Malaga in Spain.

Gravell, from Mynyddygarreg, near Llanelli, was in the 1972 Scarlets side which beat the All Blacks.

His wife and daughters said the "love and esteem in which Ray was held by everyone has been a great comfort".

In a statement, his wife Mari and daughters Manon and Gwenan, aged 11 and eight, said he was a "wonderful husband and father and was our best friend".

"We have been overwhelmed by the volume and content of the tributes and messages of sympathy we have received, not only from Wales, but across the world," they said.

Ray Gravell with his daughters
The English dictionary should simply have a picture of Ray as the definition of passion because he epitomised its real meaning
Richard Veale, Ystrad Mynach

"We are extremely grateful and the love and esteem in which Ray was held by everyone has been a great comfort to us.

"He idolised Manon and Gwenan and this tragic loss so sudden and early in his life is going to be a huge loss for the three of us.

"Family was everything for Ray. We are extremely grateful for the messages and as a family we now need time to grieve and to come to terms with what has happened."

Flags flew at half-mast at all council buildings in his home county of Carmarthenshire.

Wales great Gareth Edwards said: "It's a very sad day, but when I look back and think of Ray Gravell I'll remember the joy and immense pleasure he gave us."

The Welsh Rugby Union paid tribute to him as a man who epitomised the "passion, flair and dignity of his beloved Welsh nation".

First Minister Rhodri Morgan called him a brave man on and off the pitch, and BBC colleague Roy Noble said the news was a "body blow".

Famous for his patriotism and passion for all things Welsh, he became a successful broadcaster and actor who appeared in Louis Malle's Damage alongside Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Irons.

Mr Morgan said Gravell was courageous both during his rugby career and also earlier this year when he had his right leg amputated below the knee, following complications linked with his diabetes.

Ray Gravell
Gravell carved out a second career as a broadcaster

"On the field he was one of those centres of whom you'd always say he'd tackle a Sherman tank if it were playing for the other side," he said.

"And then the bravery he'd been showing more recently now when he had to face the amputation problem and the illness which led to the amputation."

Gravell's BBC Radio Wales colleague Roy Noble said: "Last night when I heard, it was a body blow that's very difficult to come to terms with really.

"I felt in Ray's problems and trials this year he'd come through it all and once the leg had been removed I thought there was a resurrection, you know.

"There was the new Ray who was back to the passionate and pure Welshman, one of the best I've ever known, and there was a new life there."

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "Ray was passionate about his country and his passing will be a tremendous loss to the cultural and sporting life of this nation."

BBC Wales controller Menna Richards said many colleagues in the corporation were mourning Gravell's death.

His bubbling enthusiasm and his big personality will be sorely missed - something of Wales has died with him
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain

"There's no-one in BBC Wales, and probably no-one throughout the nation who won't take the news of Ray Gravell's death as a personal bereavement," she said.

"Ray was one of BBC Wales's best-loved broadcasters on BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Wales and on television as a rugby commentator and pundit.

"His exuberance, enthusiasm, his honesty and entire lack of pretension captivated everyone who knew him."

David Pickering, chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, said Gravell "epitomised all the best elements" of the game.

Former Wales captain Gareth Davies, who toured with Gravell on the Lions tour to South Africa in 1980, said he was a "once in a generation" personality.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
After rugby, Gravell, was a broadcaster and actor



SEE ALSO
Stradey Park funeral for Gravell
04 Nov 07 |  South West Wales
In Pictures: Ray Gravell
01 Nov 07 |  In Pictures
Rugby amputee thanks well-wishers
11 May 07 |  South West Wales
Street name honours Gravell
26 Jul 03 |  South West Wales

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