James moved to Vire with his wife Gisella 15 years ago, where he became president of the Vire/Totnes twinning group.
Born in Middlesex, following his marriage to Gisella the couple moved to Northampton, then Ruthin and Llay in North Wales before settling in Devon in 1978 when James became manager at the Royal London office in Torquay.
The lived in Stoke Gabriel where they had a daughter, Laura, in 1979, later moving to Berry Pomeroy.
James, who set up his own business as a financial advisor, played an active role in community life joining Berry Pomeroy’s village hall committee, becoming a governor of the village school and churchwarden at St Mary’s Church.
He was also elected to the parish council and later Totnes Town Council where he became deputy mayor and then mayor in 2004.
Gisella said: “He was always very proud of Totnes, and his position as Mayor, and serving Totnes was his priority during his mayoral year.”
On their retirement in 2007, the couple moved to a small village in France, called Roullours, near Vire to start a new life, learn a new language and be immersed in a new culture.
James continued to play a huge role in the local community, becoming president of the Jumelage (Twinning) of Vire/Totnes – a position he held until his death.
He was also active in Faire Play – a group set up by the mayor of Vire to enable English people to integrate into French life; and with Gisella joined Noël Pour Tous, a group that arranges a Christmas dinner for some 400 people who either live alone or face financial hardship.
Among those served by the group were more than 100 children and for eight years, James played Pere Noel (Father Christmas).
Gisella said: “Laterly, he had several health problems, all borne without any sign of complaint and with great courage.
“He was awaiting an operation on his spine which should have taken place on 26th January, and it was hoped to alleviate the pain he has suffered for many years. His sense of humour was always present.
“Throughout his whole life, this sense of humour, fun and mischief has been the main part of him, one of life’s jokers, and it is his humour and his silliness that we shall all miss.”
Daughter Laura remembered: “His sense of humour and mischief were a great gift to everyone who encountered him.
“Underneath this lay an incredibly kind heart, open to all.
“He considered the stranger to be the friend he hadn’t yet met, and his cheerful grin and infectious laughter put new friends immediately at their ease.”
Marc Andreu Sabater, mayor of Vire Normandie, said: “Everyone who knew James loved his jovial character and his British sense of humour that made him a man so sociable and friendly.”
James leaves his wife Gisella, daughter Laura and granddaughter Anathé.