The Quaker meeting at Pwllheli Community Centre on Saturday 3 May, following the sudden death of Arfon Rhys, was, in many ways, unusual. Never had the small local group of Friends seen so many people at a Welsh Quaker meeting. The silence was enriched when someone felt moved to speak quietly of Arfon: family, students, peace campaigners, Welsh language campaigners, colleagues and friends. By contrast, the buffet provided by allotment friends afterwards was far from quiet.
People had travelled from far and wide and there was so much to share. The secretary of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) England was there and a representative of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, IFOR. Arfon was secretary of Cymdeithas y Cymod (FOR Wales), and an important voice in Wales on issues of peace and justice.
Arfon is, though he would humbly dismiss such a suggestion, irreplaceable. However, with his quiet, solid leadership he inspired others and Cymdeithas y Cymod representation is assured.
In this centenary year of FOR, a volume of its history in Wales is being prepared with a similar one for England. The editors of both volumes acknowledge Arfon’s vital contribution over the last 10 years.
Arfon’s influence was immense, as testified by the many tributes on radio, television, newspapers and social media. Arfon on Twitter (in Welsh, of course!) was an essential source of information, analysis and discussion on peace, justice, environment, community and Welsh affairs.
Never a sloganeering campaigner, Arfon was a seasoned nonviolent protester, a man of principles, understanding and knowledge, who presented his arguments with courtesy and clarity. His presence always brought a sense of confidence and assurance to a campaign.
Arfon died quietly in hospital on Easter Day with his partner, Marika, by his side. A graduate of University of Wales, Swansea, Arfon’s work over the years had taken him to company personnel, human resources and PR, teaching and lecturing. With Marika, he was involved in numerous voluntary organisations and from their small terraced house near Rhostryfan they touched the lives of many people.
The private meeting at the crematorium with a small choir providing three songs of peace and praise was the kind of warm and dignified send-off Arfon would have wished.
Following that, the event at the Community Centre was what all of us wanted and needed: a time together to thank God for Arfon, and to offer our support and prayer for Marika and his family. This portrait of Arfon is a picture of a warm, gentle, kind man – the Arfon we all loved.
Jill Gough from CND Cymru expresses the feelings of many: ‘Gentle Arfon was a solid fellow traveller on this long road to peace and justice. Never seeking personal gain or adulation, in his mind the goal was for all. A man of commitment, integrity and purpose, Arfon is already missed, but he would have insisted that we carry on, with love in our hearts and a twinkle in our eyes.’