My father, Charles Higgins, who died on 8 April aged 71, was many things to many people. Charles had a diverse range of interests – letter cutting, sailing, walking, swimming and voluntary work at a local primary school – which brought him into contact with a wide range of people.
He was born in 1937 in Whitehaven, then Cumberland. He was always very proud of his Cumbrian roots and was a keen supporter of both the Lakeland Dialect Society and the Friends of the Lake District.
He won an open exhibition to Cambridge and studied Natural Sciences and Chemical Engineering at Trinity College from 1958 to 1962. It was while he was a student here that he met my mother, a local girl. Her father was faintly appalled that she was going to marry a trumpet-playing student, whose band once had a memorable advertisement: "'Balls,' said the Duchess, '... are nothing without Vieux Carré jazz band"'.
After several years in the North West, they relocated to Surrey, where Charles was a Chartered Engineer, working with British Gas until 1995.
It was in his retirement that my father really blossomed. He threw himself into all his activities with gusto, especially his letter cutting and sign writing, of which he was largely self-taught. He latterly joined the South London Lettering Association and was their Treasurer at the time of his death.
He also undertook voluntary work, with the "Old Flames" of the British Gas Pensioners Group, and more locally assisting at a class for adults learning English as a second language. More recently he served as a school governor and spent time listening to children read at a local primary school, something he really enjoyed.
He was also a very keen walker and member of the local Ramblers group and a competitive member of Hampton Sailing Club. He particularly enjoyed doing cryptic crosswords.
He was always a very individual man, with a good turn of phrase, once memorably describing the change from summer to autumn as "the nights are cutting in, the football season will soon be upon us and the year will be buggered".
He was very proud of all his family and was a fiercely loyal friend to many. He is survived by Cynthia, his wife of 46 years, his daughters Anna, Rosie and Sally and four much-loved grandchildren.
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