Ron Cox obituary

Other lives: Teacher who went on to work at HM Treasury

My father, Ron Cox, who has died aged 93, had a lifelong passion for local history, sharing his research and enthusiasm with a range of audiences. Starting out as a teacher, he went on to work at HM Treasury and then in local government.

He was born in Beckenham, south-east London, to Charles, a sailor in the Royal Navy, and his wife, Daisy (nee Williams). After Beckenham grammar school he served in the army during the second world war, taking part in the Normandy campaign.

On discharge in 1947, he trained as a history teacher and took up a post at Lanfranc secondary modern school in Croydon (now the Archbishop Lanfranc Academy), augmenting his salary by lecturing to Workers’ Educational Association classes. Eventually he became head of history at Ashburton high school (now Oasis Academy) in Croydon and then did an MA and a PhD at Leicester University even though he did not have a first degree.

His higher education opened up new career opportunities and at the Treasury he worked to secure, among other things, a decent budget for road improvements for the Prince of Wales’s investiture in Caernarfon in 1969. Then as an assistant director of education in Croydon he oversaw the building of schools and was proud of winning battles with Whitehall to secure a realistic budget for the rebuilding of Croydon’s St Giles special school, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

In retirement he continued to be in demand as a speaker, giving nearly 2,000 talks before stopping at the age of 91. His signature presentation, Arcadia Overwhelmed, looked at the effect of suburbanisation on a quiet Kent village, drawing on conversations overheard as a child in his uncle’s shoe shop.

He was on the council of the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society for almost 25 years (two of them as president) and was also active in several other local groups. In 1984 he wrote and had published a biography of Captain Sir Eyre Massey Shaw, the first chief of what is now the London Fire Brigade.

Ron was liberal in outlook and remained throughout his life a stout defender of public services. His company was enjoyed by many and his quiet encouragement and support were appreciated by many amateur historians.

In 2017, he was one of the surviving Normandy veterans to be made a member of the Légion d’Honneur.

He married Audrey Gilbert, a bank worker, in 1948; she died in 2011. He is survived by me, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

David Cox

The GuardianTramp

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