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Quaker company director who became Oxfam chairman
Published 23/07/12

CHRIS BARBER, who was a pillar of the community in Peppard Common and Henley for more than 30 years, died peacefully in his sleep on July 8, aged 91.

Chris and his wife Anne moved to the area in 1966 and lived first at Peppard Cottage on the common and later at Kestrels, just opposite the post office. In 2004, they moved to Warwick, near their youngest grandchildren.

Chris worked at Huntley and Palmers in Reading, where he was the finance director until his retirement in 1981.

He spent his entire career in Quaker biscuit companies, having previously been at Jacobs in Liverpool until its merger with Huntley and Palmers in 1966. His wisdom and dedication were appreciated by all his colleagues.

By the time he left, both companies were part of a large American conglomerate and the connection to their Quaker roots had been lost. As an active Quaker himself, Chris felt that his retirement had come at a good time.

Thereafter he was chairman of Oxfam during the Eighties and was often to be found driving between Peppard and Oxford throughout this period.

It was a time when famine and international development became huge public issues, not least as a result of Bob Geldof’s intervention and the Live Aid campaign following the famine in Ethiopia.

Oxfam grew dramatically and, in his role as chairman, Chris was keen to ensure that the extra donations were used well, not just to tackle famine but to ensure sustainable development thereafter. His was a wise and compassionate hand on the tiller. Throughout their time in the area, Chris and Anne were actively involved in the Quaker meeting in Henley, making time to assist both the meeting and its members, especially in times of trouble.

Chris was also involved in national Quaker activities, including Quaker Peace and Service, which sought to bring a Quaker perspective to conflict and international relations.

He was founding chairman of Responding to Conflict, which played an active part in peaceful conflict resolution in many parts of the world.

Chris also played a part in strengthening co-operation between churches in Henley and, even in his seventies, joined a number of sponsored cycle rides with stops at different churches in the area.

Closer to home, he was known for organising treasure hunts on and around Peppard Common and many other activities involving local families.

For several years he organised a hockey match at New Year on a field near the Dog in Peppard with 20 or 30 people, from small children to ageing grandparents, on each side and no referee! Fortunately, the games were all played in good spirit and there were no injuries.

On one occasion, the match was played in deep snow.

Towards the end of his time in the area, Chris could be found as a volunteer in the Oxfam bookshop in Henley.

He is survived by his five children and their families to whom he was a devoted father and grandfather. All the children still have great affection for the area and his daughter Lucy and granddaughters Holly and Frances still live locally.

Published 23/07/12

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