Death of a village stalwart

TONY Bell, a former paratroop officer, who was county commissioner for West Cambridgeshire Scouts, died on Sunday morning, aged 72. His death, at Papworth Hospital, followed successful planned surgery. A popular figure with villagers of all ages in Hough

TONY Bell, a former paratroop officer, who was county commissioner for West Cambridgeshire Scouts, died on Sunday morning, aged 72.

His death, at Papworth Hospital, followed successful planned surgery.

A popular figure with villagers of all ages in Houghton and Wyton, Mr Bell had been heavily involved in community activities.

He was church warden at St Mary's Church for several years, founder-member of the village gardening club, president of the Houghton and Wyton branch of the Royal British Legion, author of the village magazine's bird-watching column and enthusiastic member of the Feast Week committee.

After retirement, he found more time for other pursuits including walking, golf and wildlife photography - eventually conceding that there was something to digital equipment after all.

Mr Bell cut an imposing figure in the villages, where he was widely regarded a "a perfect English gentleman".

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Born in Esher, Surrey, he was evacuated to Somerset where - though he did not know it at the time - he was at school with his future brother-in-law. He was later educated at Mill Hill School, where he was head of house.

Forced to abandon accountancy training in favour of National Service, he joined 3 Para and saw action in the Middle and Far East, leaving to get married and join his father's Godmanchester-based printing company, TransArt, which became a worldwide business.

He met his future wife, Joy, a staff nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, by chance after breaking a leg on his first parachute jump.

She recalled him driving his MG with his leg in plaster between Aldershot and central London to visit her.

"He would sit and read stories to the children while I finished what I had to do before I went off duty," she recalls.

The couple moved to Hemingford Grey in 1966 and to Houghton four years later, eventually settling in a thatched cottage near the church.

They had three children - Alexander, who lives in Singapore, Lizzie, a nurse, and Susie, who died in a road accident 22 years almost to the day before her father.

He was immensely proud of their children and their two grandsons, aged one and almost four.

His mother died recently, shortly after her 100th birthday.

The Rev Brian Atling, rural dean of Huntingdon and Rector of Houghton with Wyton, told The Hunts Post: "He was such a lovely man.

"I spoke to him most days, usually at some length, when I rang actually to talk to Joy. He was a great character in the village, and he'll be greatly missed."

INFORMATION: The funeral will be at Houghton Church on Wednesday, January 16, at 3pm. Donations in memory of Tony Bell can be made to the Papworth Trust through Peacocks, undertakers, in Huntingdon.

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