Colin Walsh worked tirelessly for months to organise a charity dinner for disabled schoolgirl Gulshat Kadyrova.
But, as people dined and danced at Oxford Town Hall on Friday, the atmosphere was tinged with sadness as Mr Walsh passed away the day before.
The blind pensioner suffered a major stroke the day after his 74th birthday and died at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Gulshat’s mother Bahar said: “It was a fantastic evening but it was so sad as well because Colin wasn’t there.
“After the dinner was finished, Gulshat was crying, which was very painful for me to see.”
“He was a really close friend of ours – we’d known him five or six years and Gulshat was best friends with his guide dog, Jarvis.
“But it was always his personality to make other people enjoy life and so we did our best on Friday.”
Mr Walsh had spent the last few months of his life calling businesses and charities to make sure the event went smoothly.
And thanks to him, more than £3,000 was raised towards a life-saving operation for 11-year-old Gulshat, who was born without hip sockets.
Friend Annie Morley said: “Colin worked tirelessly. And so the event became a celebration of his work too.
“It was special, something he would have been immensely proud of. He gave his all.”
Mr Walsh, from Friars Wharf in Oxford, lost his sight 18 years ago.
He was known for his campaigns for disabled rights and earlier this year he battled plans to axe free taxi travel for pensioners and disabled people in South Oxfordshire.
He chaired the campaign group Transport for All and was involved with the Guide Dogs For The Blind charity.
Mrs Morley said: “I knew Colin for 10 years and he was someone who inspired people.
“He was a motivator and would never give up – I thought he was gaining strength as he grew older.
“People from Wallingford will be especially hard hit by the news.”
Mr Walsh was also president of three Oxford speaking clubs over the years, including the Oxford Isis speakers club.
Mrs Morley added: “We had two lovely parties for him at the weekend. His two sons and daughter came over from abroad.
“And he passed away surrounded by family, so I think the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.”
Mr Walsh’s funeral will be held tomorrow at 11.15am in the Catholic Chaplaincy in Rose Place, St Aldate’s.
firstname.lastname@example.org To donate, visit gulshat fund.org.uk.