A man of strong faith, Mr Wills had worked tirelessly to bring Burnley’s communities closer following the Disturbances of 2001, and gained huge respect from everyone he met.
He was awarded the MBE for his work in 2016.
Now, the minister of the United Reformed Church, where Colin worshipped, Liz Jewitt, has added her own moving tribute to him.
She said: “Colin was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word and was well respected and regarded by everyone who knew him. He was a people’s person and engaged deeply with people of all faiths and no faith. People deeply mattered to him.
“Colin was a committed Christian and member of Burnley and Nelson United Reformed Church up until its closure last year. In his own local church, he served the congregation in many ways, from volunteering in the Coffee Cup – a place where the community could come and find a warm welcome, friendship and fellowship over a brew; to leading small groups of folks, helping them to develop their own faith and spirituality.
"He also attended many conferences and workshops to help him develop his own Christian faith. Two years ago, when the country went into lockdown due to the pandemic and church doors had to close, Colin learnt many new skills to enable him to continue worshipping God albeit online with a virtual congregation.
“Colin always gave of his best and put his trust in God. He lived a life of service which was rooted and grounded in his Christian faith. He was a man of great integrity and determination. He was absolutely passionate and worked effortlessly for his beloved hometown, Burnley. To that end, he was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his commitment and dedication.
“Colin was a former headteacher of a large multi-faith primary school in Stoneyholme until his retirement, after which he was appointed by the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church to serve as a member of SACRE – the Standard Advisory Council on Religious Education – an organisation specifically geared to multi-faith provision of Religious Education and Collective Worship.
“Colin was one of the founder members and chair person of Building Bridges in Burnley. He was also passionate about ecumenism. He engaged deeply and worked tirelessly with all of the Christian denominations in the town.
“Colin was a man of immense courage who relied on his faith to get him through the good times as well as the bad. Sadly, during the pandemic, his health gradually deteriorated. He was often a patient at Blackburn Hospital where he still managed to share his faith with all those he met.
"Latterly, he enjoyed the services of Pendleside Hospice where again, even through his pain and suffering, he made many friends with staff and patients alike. He was deeply grateful for all the help and support he received from medics, carers and his dear wife, Freda.
“Sadly, during the early hours of Saturday morning, Colin died peacefully, at home, with Freda at his bedside. Colin put his deep trust in God, his Saviour, with whom he is now safely at rest.”