A FORMER chairman of Mersey Regional Health Authority who was knighted for his services to the NHS has died at the age of 79.
Family and friends of Sir Donald Wilson gathered at a special thanksgiving service in Chester yesterday to celebrate the life of the man who in 1995 received a KBE, the highest honour ever given for services to the NHS.
Hailed as a visionary, Sir Donald was chairman of the Mersey and North West Regional Health Authorities from 1982 to 1995.
He was credited as being the driving force behind the redevelopment of the former Liverpool Royal Infirmary, which underwent a £7m facelift in 1995.
Sir Donald was also credited with transforming Merseyside and the North West into a flagship region for health services.
When he stepped down as chairman in 1995, at the age of 73, he was the longest-serving regional chairman in the UK.
The Wrexham-born businessman took over his father's tyre depot in partnership with his brother, Brian.
During World War II he served with the RAF and took part in the siege of Malta.
In 1959 moved to Old Field Farm in Chester, where he bred a prize herd of Ayrshires.
He also served as chairman of the North West Electricity Consultative Council and was a board member of Norweb.
In 1985 he became High Sheriff of Cheshire. He was knighted for his services to the NHS in 1987.
But some health campaigners who had fought to save Broadgreen Hospital's casualty unit from closure objected when he was awarded his KBE in 1995.
Sir Donald was given an honorary fellowship by Liverpool John Moores University and an honorary Doctor of Law degree by the University of Liverpool.
In 1997, he received a special award from the Institute of Management for his outstanding contribution to public sector management.
Following a service at Blacon Crematorium, a thanksgiving service was held at the Church of St Mary in Pulford, Chester, yesterday.
Sir Donald died peacefully at his home on July 29.
He is survived by his widow, Lady Edna, and brother Brian.