Monday, 20 September 2021

Keen sportsman whose boat parties were ‘legendary’

HAROLD ALEC STEVENS was born on May 15, 1927 and died on May 18, 2013.

HAROLD ALEC STEVENS was born on May 15, 1927 and died on May 18, 2013.

Generally known as Steve Stevens, he was a keen Henley sportsman, and in later years he was involved in the development of the Henley Rugby Club, Henley Cricket Club, and Henley Golf Club.

He was born in Newport, brought up in Birmingham, and after a mechanical engineering apprenticeship in Norwich, joined the Civil Service as a draughtsman in the RAF communications section, Signals Command.

He was transferred to RAF Medmenham in 1954, and continuing energetically with his professional education and development, gained steady promotion, retiring as head of mechanical engineering in 1985. He joined the Old Henlensians rugby club, having played the game at a higher level at Norwich and Reading. His arrival as an experienced, tight-head prop forward greatly elevated the club’s performances, both through his own playing strengths and by his coaching of other players.

He became club captain in 1959, and continued playing until the early Seventies. He was enthusiastic about extending the vision of the club, which became Henley Rugby Club in 1963, and played a major role in developing ties with Le Havre Rugby Club.

He also made a very great contribution off the pitch. He was club chairman from 1967 to 1975, and his energy, drive and engineering skills helped in the provision of a new club house and changing rooms. Membership grew and when he retired in 1975 the club was a financial and playing success.

Henley Cricket Club was formed from the disbanded Henley Brewery Cricket Club and Henley Rugby Club players in 1974. Steve had been a cricket player in his youth and took a keen interest in the project, becoming one of the first trustees in 1974.

In 1975 the brewery granted the club a 30-year lease of its ground at the bottom of White Hill and he was very involved in developing the club both on and off the pitch. He was club chairman from 1974 until 1981 and remained a trustee and honorary vice president until his death.

He was also for many years a member of Henley Golf Club, and as club captain in 1983, set about energetically modernising the club. By the end of his captaincy the club had a modern course, structural changes to the membership including better access for women and juniors, and was on a sound financial footing.

Steve married Brenda Harvey in 1950 and they had two children, Sarah and Julian.

Shortly after moving to Henley they designed and built a house for themselves. They divorced in 1968 and in 1972 he married Pauline Barefield. Sadly she developed multiple sclerosis some years later. Steve joined the Henley Branch of the MS Society and became chairman from 1991 to 1993.

During this time the committee instigated and promoted a number of fundraising events which greatly helped the future of the charity, and also raised the profile of the society locally.

Following Pauline’s death in 1992 he became a familiar figure on the river at Henley in his wooden day boat Charlotte, and his Henley Royal Regatta river parties were legendary.

In 2012 his health started to fail and he died peacefully in his sleep.

He is survived by a daughter Sarah, son Julian, daughter-in-law Helene, and his grand daughter Zoe, aged five, who became the light of his last years.

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