David Oldershaw obituary

Other lives: Social worker and local government stalwart whose work focused on the needs of families in Leicestershire

My uncle, David Oldershaw, who has died from cancer aged 69, was a social worker and community activist.

David was a man of integrity and principle, committed to social justice and empowering people, gifted in pulling the best from others. Colleagues at Leicester city council, where from 2002 he was service director, resources, social care and health, remember him as thoughtful, attentive, reasonable; someone who could bring big ideas into reality, but not seeking the limelight, often steering things invisibly from the back seat.

David’s dedication to the Leicestershire community, in which he lived almost all his life, was clear in his local activism. He was a popular member and public advocate of Stoneygate Conservation Area Society for more than four decades, and served as chairman for nine years. A believer in people and in supporting the most vulnerable, David served as treasurer for Leicester City of Sanctuary, a charity helping refugees and asylum seekers, and was a Labour party member. Latterly he built on his lifelong interest in art to become a member of community art groups.

Born the son of Ruth (nee Clayton), a former nurse, and Henry Oldershaw, David was one of four sons who grew up on the site of their father’s building business in South Wigston. After leaving Guthlaxton comprehensive school in the town, he took a first degree in English literature at Exeter University, then trained as a social worker at the University of Kent in Canterbury. David’s career then focused on the needs of children and families within the city of Leicester and the county of Leicestershire.

By the time of his retirement in 2007 he was service director, strategy, commissioning, performance and business support for Leicester; his staff parking space was later revealed, after archaeological excavations in 2012, to be above the grave of Richard III.

In 1984 David married Vanessa Morris, also a social worker. They were a close and complementary couple, with an endearing silliness and capacity for fun. The death of Nessa, his soulmate, from multiple system atrophy in 2009 deeply affected David. He wrote: “It has made me think a lot about letting go. I know the old paradox that death is part of life and because memories and experiences become part of us there is a kind of continuation, and in a sense, a living on.”

An article published in the Guardian in 2010 describing the scattering of some of Nessa’s ashes in her favourite place in New York (Macy’s bra department, a shopping mecca for big women) reflected David’s desire to find fun in even the saddest moments. With his eccentric humour, warmth, generosity and full appreciation of life, David had many devoted friends and family, through whom he will achieve “a living on”.

He is survived by his brothers, Noel, John and Andrew, and nine nieces and nephews.

Tom Oldershaw

The GuardianTramp

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