Obituaries

Noel Noble 1923 -2017
VAC was very sad to learn of the death of International Opera Singer and longtime Polytechnic Harriers and Veterans AC middle distance competitor, Noel Noble, at the end of June after a fine innings of over 94 years.
 
As an athlete in the UK, in the 1970s/1980s, he was very supportive of both Poly and VAC and, although his running career in the UK never reached great heights, he would invariably be present to complete his club teams, not least at cross country events. He contributed to VAC on and off the arena, and was their TM/Organiser when they set a World Best for the then-popular 100 x 1 Mile Relay at Crystal Palace, causing other overseas veterans clubs to challenge their achievement.

VAC has the Noel Noble trophy, for MV50 1500m/1 mile.


BRIAN HARLICK
Brian Harlick sadly died shortly before Christmas 2016. He was an active member of both Epsom and Ewell Harriers and VAC. He competed regularly in the pole vault, and all the throwing events, most recently as a V70. He competed in the Pole Vault in the Main Surrey Championships from 1994 - 2010 having previously competed in the Surrey Cross-Country Championships from 1983 - 1986. He was also a very active official, and when not competing, helped at VAC track and field championships. At the Surrey County Athletics Association AGM on Friday a posthumous award was given. The Officials Cup was collected by his children (Marianne and Michael).


Photo: Jeremy Hemming


 Charles Eugster (1919 – 2017)

Charles Eugster joined VAC as a sprinter a few years ago so that he could compete in British Masters events. He had previously rowed competitively, but took up sprinting at the age of 95. He set age group records in both the 100m and 200m and competed at several World and European masters’ championships. He has written a book called Age is Just a Number which was published in January 2017.

Ros Tabor



Alasdair Ross, 1952-2016 In Memoriam

Alasdair died on 4th July 2016 aged 64. He was originally from Edinburgh and, as a senior athlete competed against David Jenkins in the 400m and Allan Wells in the 200m and was selected to compete for Scotland on a couple of occasions.

However it was in Masters competition that Alasdair excelled winning gold medals and setting records at numerous World, European and British championships since starting to compete at age 40. He is currently European M60 indoor record holder over 200m (25.24s) and British M60 indoor record holder over 400m (58.13s). He holds Scottish Masters outdoor bests for 100m, 200m and 400m in the M50, M55 and M60 age categories and the 400m in the M45 category. Indoors he holds bests for 60m, 200m and 400m in the M50, M55 and M60 age categories.

A well known, popular and top class athlete, Alasdair will be sadly missed.
VAC and all its members offer their sincere condolences to his wife Lorraine and his family. 7-11-16

Taken in August 1991  at VAC T&F Champs West London Stadium

The trophies in his hands are probably 100m, 200m and best sprint trophy.

Possibly his first veteran comp; certainly first with VAC.


RON HOPCROFT 27 FEBRUARY 1918 – 17 MARCH 2016

There is a photograph of Ron in 2009 with Cecil Gittins in Cecil's obituary below.

Thames Valley Harriers club legend Ron Hopcroft has died at the age of 98.

Ron was born in Chiswick in 1918 and was active in many sports at school before joining Ashcombe AC at the age of 17, winning his first race in Regents Park and competing in cross country and track races before being called up to the forces in 1939. He returned  to  London in 1941 dealing with bomb damage from air raids and finding that Ashcombe AC had disbanded, he joined Thames Valley Harriers.  Ron briefly returned to track running after the war but in 1949 at the age of 31 he decided to try long-distance road running to get fit for the cross country season,  joining the road running team and a large training group based at Boston Manor in West London.
He won the “Brighton” race (approx 55 miles from Big Ben to the Brighton Aquarium) in 1956.

Ron then turned his attention to the 100 mile record, targeting the world best time of 12:20:28, deciding to do it the hard way by running from Hyde Park Corner to Box in Wiltshire, a very hilly course in the final 30 miles.  At 5am on  25th October 1958, Ron set off from Hyde Park Corner;  through 30 miles at Reading in under 3½ hours before the hills started,  Newbury at 56 miles before it became crowded with racegoers, cup of tomato soup and piece of bread on the move at 60 miles, on to Marlborough at 75 miles, in trouble at 80 miles walking for a few yards, more soup and back to sub 7 minute miling, through Chippenham at 90 miles, struggled through worst of the hills, eventually Box came in to sight in the dusk, finishing in a new record of 12:18:16. 

Ron but was forced to retire from running in 1961 after an ankle injury and the pressure of business and family commitments. He continued working as a track judge and cross country official until 2007 and acted as timekeeper at VAC events.


KEN CROOKE 1928 - 2015 - It is with regret that we have to report that Ken died on 8th December 2015. He was elected president of the County Association in 2010 having previously been Treasurer. Ken's passion was Cross-Country and he held senior positions in the English Cross-Country Association, South of Thames Cross-Country Association and the East Surrey League. He was also the key person for many years in the cross-country activities of his club, Croydon Harriers. His funeral was held at Lyndhurst, Hampshire on 7th January 2016. Profile

Cecil Gittins and Ron Hopcroft (see obituary) on Wimbledon Common in 2009
Photo by Jeremy Hemming

CECIL GITTINS 30 DECEMBER 1928 - 12 NOVEMBER 2014 

Funeral of Cecil Gittins held at Kingston Crematorium 15 December 2014, followed by reception at nearby Antoinette Hotel.

Sad news has been received that Cecil Gittins, race walker, timekeeper, judge, and active VAC committee member until 2013 has passed away.

He had been a member of Queens Park Harriers since 1946 and attended committee meetings until again 2013.
He was recognised for his numerous years' service to athletics in Queens Park Harriers and Middlesex County in 2014 in a Brent Community Champions Awards ceremony but was not well enough to attend personally.

He had been in a nursing home in Raynes Park since 2013 and was nearly 86.

The funeral was well attended by his many friends including those in race walking, VAC and Queens Park Harriers.

The eulogies were delivered by VAC members Bill O'Connor and Peter Cassidy,  and his lawyer, and covered his active and successful life as a scientist, athlete, official, and prominent member of the Liberal Party, later Liberal Democrats.

The following is reproduced by kind permission of Peter Cassidy:

CECIL GITTINS

Cecil Gittins, who has died six weeks short of his eighty-sixth birthday, was for many years a well-known figure in the race walking world in this country.

A club competitor in his younger days, he will be known principally because of his contribution to administration and officiating, both locally and at a higher level.

He served as Chairman of the Race Walking Association from 1977 to 1980, 1983 to 1988 and again from 1989 to 1998; the period from 1983 to 1998 would have been a remarkable unbroken spell of fifteen years had he not vacated the chair in 1988 to become the Association's President. Although he was asked to continue to guide the General Committee and Annual General Meetings from the Chair, he firmly declined to stand after his seventieth birthday, modestly declaring himself to be too old.

He continued for some time, however, as Chairman of the Rules, Records and Standards Sub-Committee, dealing with some of the nuts and bolts of organisation. He had the attractive policy of not ending a Sub-Committee meeting by fixing the date of the next, arguing that if a meeting took place without having some pre-arranged matters to deal with, it would last just as long and achieve nothing; many of the members were grateful for this attitude.

As an official - principally as a timekeeper but also as a judge and a recorder - he spent many hours beside the track and the road serving his sport and was one of the timekeepers when the Lugano Trophy meeting was held in the Isle of Man in 1985.

He was always interested in the younger walkers and, until age and health problems prevented it, frequently accompanied the juniors in their trips to Dublin to contest the Nihill Trophy match; the young team members came to regard him as a sort of mascot to be looked after.

Cecil had worked as a chemist and remained interested in scientific matters to the end of his life. It was, perhaps, his scientific approach that led him to reject any religious belief, while his good nature allowed him to look with a sort of benign sympathy upon those who did not share his views.

Cecil appeared to have no family, but with his passing, we in race walking have lost a loyal and devoted servant of our sport and a mildly eccentric friend.

Peter Cassidy


I regret to inform you that Jaroslav Hanus, multiple British masters record holder in the throws, passed away on March 8th 2014, following a stroke. The funeral will be at Breakspear crematorium, Ruislip, on Thursday 20th March at 1pm.

Jaroslav was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930, After the war he participated in many sports - athletics, including throws and decathlon, basketball, ice hockey, and volleyball. He eventually concentrated on the throws, becoming Czech hammer champion in 1950 or 1951. During his national service he made the elite army team, and among his team mates was one Emil Zatopek. He gave up his athletics when he qualified as an architect, and emigrated to Britain in 1968 to continue his work as an architect. When he retired in 1995 he took up athletics again, and set 33 British Masters records in the throws. He competed all over the world in masters athletics, winning many medals in the process. He was a character, and will be sadly missed. 17-03-14


Sir Chris Chataway, 82 has died after suffering from cancer.
He held membership of VAC since 2006, as well as Thames Hare and Hounds, and competed cross country with the club.
Chataway was one of Britain's finest middle-distance runners in the 1950s and a member of the Olympic team in 1952 and 1956.
In May 1954, he helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile before achieving his own world record in the 5,000 metres four months later.
By the end of the year he had become the first person to be awarded the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.
In 1959 he entered Parliament as a Conservative MP. He was made minister of Posts and Telecommunications (1970-1972) and Minister for Industrial Development (1972-1974). He then left politics for a career in the City.
From 1991 to 1996 he was chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority and was knighted in 1995.
He kept his passion for running alive and ran the Great North Run some three years ago. 20-01-14
 
BOB BELMORE 13 October 1927 – 9 September 2013

Bob died aged 85 after a short illness. He was well known as a tireless organiser and dedicated team manager who willingly devoted huge amounts of time and energy to club affairs in every capacity. He was a former VAC President and as a Committee Member for over twenty years filled the roles of Cross Country Secretary, T&F Secretary and Road Secretary, as well as supporting and coaching many Masters athletes to compete and fulfil their potential. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was instrumental in building up his local club, Guildford & Godalming AC, to become a junior and senior force on the Surrey scene. A legacy from that era is the Hogs Back road race which Bob helped to instigate and make famous.

In the 1980s he used his organisational skills and immense enthusiasm to found Waverley Harriers, a running club for athletes of all ages and abilities. Bob also became a specialist at developing cross country courses, such as those on his local commons at Milford and Tilford. This prepared him well for embracing Wimbledon Common as Vets AC’s home ground. He organised countless club and Surrey League cross country races there. His hands-on style saw him out early setting up the courses, constructing the finish funnel, sorting out the officials, starting the race with well-chosen words, working out the results and finally presenting the awards. In 1991, he took VAC’s men into the Surrey League, followed a few years later by a women’s team. Under his upbeat and positive leadership, the teams demonstrated that Masters athletes can hold their own admirably in senior competitions. Other credits due to Bob include the foundation of the 5km Veterans’ championship races at Dunsfold Aerodrome in the 1990s and VAC’s successful hosting of two BVAF Championships at Reading (T&F) and Tunbridge Wells (cross country).

Bob was a great athlete himself in a long career stretching from success in 440 and 880 yard races in his early twenties, through to honours at County and Southern level at cross country, competing well with the greats of the time such as Gordon Pirie and Chris Chataway. He fully embraced the Veterans’ scene after his 50th birthday and made good marks. In 1983, aged 55, he won Gold in the BVAF National Cross Country at Wolverhampton. However, it was in the M60 age group that he achieved success at national and international level. He was justifiably proud of his British 5,000m M60 record of 17:27.8 achieved at Reading in 1988. The record stood for four years until it was bettered by the late, great, Laurie O’Hara. At international level, Bob’s highpoint was his trip to the World Vets in Melbourne in 1989 in which he won a Bronze medal in the 5,000m. He also placed highly in middle distance events at European championships in Verona and Brugge.

In his later years, Bob devoted nearly all his time to organising VAC activities in every running discipline. He is remembered for his dedication and persistence, and also for his generous spirit, warmth and friendship. 26-09-13


Jack Fitzgerald
You may have been expecting this sad news. It is with much sorrow that I have to inform you that Jack died this morning (13 May 2013) in the temporary Residential Home in Putney where he had been moved to from hospital whilst waiting a place nearer his home. He had been very much up and down recently. He reached his 90th birthday in January and had always said that would do him, that is long enough.
The funeral was on Thursday 6 June at Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting 13-05-13
 
Ron Eaton, 'Ron the Runner' 
A great servant of Athletics has been lost to us. Those who in the past have worked on Administration at the London Marathon, will remember Ron as the kindly and friendly man who managed the Registration process. Sadly he died recently and his funeral was at the City of London Crematorium on 20 September. He was 86 and was survived by a son and a daughter and two grandchildren. He was shortly to become a Great Grandfather. He was himself a prodigious runner who completed many marathons including London and New York. He also race-walked, was a Centurion and had completed the London to Brighton. He was greatly affected by the loss of his wife Joyce 7 years ago and it was appropriate to hear the BBC's London Marathon theme being played at the service which ended with the pop song 'Keep on Running'. He greatly enjoyed running and considered himself a serious runner. Thus the award by Running Magazine of the title 'Fun Runner of the Year' didn't go down at all well... 26-09-11
LAURENCE DORDOY
The funeral took place on Tuesday 9th June 2009 at The Forest Park Crematorium, Forest Road, Hainault. Essex. IG6 3HP.
Laurence was involved in a fatal accident in Wood Lane, Dagenham at the junction of Gosfield Road opposite the Dagenham Civic Centre. 4-06-09

Chas Walker (on right) was a former VAC President (1999) and an active distance runner up until 1998, and quite a character.

 

The Belgrave site citation says

Charlie Walker 1929-2008

It is with deep regret that we must announce that the President of Belgrave Harriers, Charlie Walker, died yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 13th February.

Charlie’s career was a prodigious one to say the least. He ran with success at the top level of competition when this country’s middle and long distance runners were household names and second to none!

In any other period he would no doubt have gained himself full international honours.

Gordon Pirie, Frank Sando, Alec Olney, John Parlett, Chris Chataway… these are just some of the stars of the ’50s & ’60s with whom Charlie tangled with over track, road and cross country. He trained with them, raced against them, was beaten by them and on occasions beat them in return. 14-02-08


Jim Day died suddenly on Sunday morning (1 July 2007). Jim would have been 74 in August and the following year would have achieved 50 years membership of Blackheath & Bromley HAC. 4-07-07


Jim McQuillin died around the 26 December 2006 after a short illness.
An Epsom & Ewell Harrier, distance runner and official; he was also a former Membership Secretary of VAC. The funeral was private. It is understood that there was a plan to scatter his ashes on Banstead Downs on Sunday 14 January 2007. 6-01-07