Having worked as a cartographical surveyor and then a youth leader, Roy, now 85, has spent his life helping others find their way. He is now a much-loved member of our community at Luff House, Walton-on-the-Naze
Born in Sevenoaks in 1935, Roy moved to Tunbridge Wells as a baby. As a boy, he was fascinated with maps and loved being outdoors. After school, he signed up to the army to train as a cartologist and was sent to Egypt, where he spent three years making maps with the Royal Engineers. “It was an adventurous time,” says his daughter Rowena. “Dad told me stories of how they had to clean their plates with sand.”
On returning to England Roy was employed by the Ordnance Survey. “He enjoyed the work but it was not without its stresses – he used to have to climb over garden fences to get measurements,” says Rowena. In 1964 his supervisor commented on his high standard of work, noting also ‘he has a very pleasant manner and this enables him to enjoy the best of relations with his colleagues.’
Having a natural affinity with young people, after several years Roy decided to retrain as a youth worker.
In 1966 he married Mary Christine, who he knew through St John’s. The family lived at Harlow, then moved to Clacton in 1968, the same year Rowena was born. Roy was employed by Essex County Council as a community education officer. “Dad was able to bring out the best in young people,” says Rowena. “If you thought you could walk ten miles he’d say, ‘why not do 15?’ He had a lovely, gentle way of being both challenging and encouraging.”
In his role, Roy organised trips for the Essex Youth Orchestra. “One year he took a trip to Russia. It was minus 40 degrees and some of the wooden instruments started splitting in the cold,” says Rowena. He was also in charge of The Princes’ Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, with many young people benefiting from his expert map training.
Church was always important. “When I was growing up we were always the last to leave any event,” says Rowena. “Dad had to make sure all the chairs had been stacked, that all the floors had been swept. He was a perfectionist, but in a supportive way. He’d be the first to ask, ‘what can I do to help?’”
Sadly, Mary Christine died from cancer in 1987. Roy later got remarried to Sue who had also lost her husband and who he knew through his work with the council.
After retiring, Roy dedicated his talents to an ambitious church restoration project. St John’s in Great Clacton, listed in the Domesday Book, had been declared unsafe and forced to close in 1986. Thanks to Roy’s management of the project, the church was able to open again after 16 years.
A few years ago Roy started to wonder if he might be showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. “His father had suffered from the disease and he recognised the symptoms in himself,” says Rowena.
“Coming to terms with the diagnosis was very difficult for him,” says Sue. “He is an incredibly talented and capable man and he knew what lay ahead. At the same time he was very brave, making sure his Will and everything was sorted.”
Sue cared for Roy at home until he needed to move into a care home. The family chose Luff House, where they knew his faith would be supported. “The staff show him such affection. I made a book of his favourite Bible verses and every week they go through it with him,” says Rowena. “They know how important his faith is to him.”
Roy loves white tigers, and as a special gift one of the staff gave him a giant white tiger. Around the home, Roy’s is a very gentle and calming presence. “The staff tell me that at dinner time, he won’t start eating until everyone at the table has been served, even if it’s ice cream,” says Rowena, “That’s Dad all over. He is such a gentleman."
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