Thursday, 21 October 2021

Natural-born comedian and showman with human touch

RUSSELL WILLIAMS passed away on February 5 after a long and spirited life.

RUSSELL WILLIAMS passed away on February 5 after a long and spirited life.

He was a gifted communicator and made people smile wherever he went. A natural-born comedian and gifted showman with a human touch, he was well–liked by many.

Russell was born in Croydon in 1931 but at the age of eight at the outbreak of the Second World War he was made a child evacuee and sent to Newton Abbot in Devon, where he grew up on a farm with his grand– parents.

He enjoyed a happy and secure childhood in Devon and it is there that his lifelong love of animals and the countryside took hold.

Despite doing well at school, he left at the age of 15 but with good exam grades.

He was expected to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and learn to be a printers’ reader. He worked at his grandfather’s company for a while but found the job tedious â?? it did not appeal to his adventurous spirit.

He left the company and entered an unsettled period where he did odd jobs but none of them appealed. Russell was taken ill with tuberculosis at the age of 18 and underwent extensive treatment over a period of six years. During this time he was told that his life expectancy would be short.

However, and in spite of that, he had fallen in love with his nurse whom he married after being discharged.

The marriage started off well, during which time a successful chain of dry cleaning premises was built up and a first laundrette opened in the south of England. However, the marriage foundered and husband and wife parted in 1978 but remained on friendly terms until his death.

In 1980 he met Patricia when he was managing a chain of dry cleaning premises in West London and they were married in 1981.

His marriage to Patricia was very successful and he remained happily married until his death.

Three years after they married, Russell started work for Sir William McAlpine at Fawley Hill, initially as his driver.

He went on to manage the “Fawley Collection” that comprised a fleet of Rolls–Royce and Bentley cars.

Russell was in his element there. He had a lifelong passion for vehicles of all kinds, and in particular, for cars.

While working at Fawley Hill he was able to significantly add to his considerable knowledge of cars and other vehicles.

Russell loved people. He demonstrated his care for them is many ways and by forming Contact the Elderly, a service that used volunteer drivers to take elderly people, typically ladies, to visit the grandest houses in the Hambleden Valley. Tea was hosted by the owners who often used their butlers to wait on the visitors. This service was honoured after 10 years by Russell being given an award by the Duke of Devonshire.

Russell also joined Rotary of which he was a loyal, active and dedicated member for more than 40 years, and joined the Henley Rotary Club in 1991.

He gave many cleverly produced and witty talks on several subjects and held the position of speaker’s secretary for two years. During that time he managed to acquire a collection of speakers, many of whom the like of which has not been seen since.

It was during his time at Rotary that he met his great friend and fellow musician Ken Fitt with whom he shared a mutual love of jazz.

Together, they formed a duo and made music together with Russell as vocalist and Ken on saxophone. They performed many times for Rotary charity events and were a huge hit.

Russell was an unforgettable character known for his excellent sense of humour, his kind–heartedness, generosity of feelings for others and impeccable manners. He was a joy to be around and a true force for good. He will be sorely missed.

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