A FORMER teacher and RAF flight lieutenant, described as "a true friend of Huntingdon and Huntingdonshire", has died at the age of 76. Born in London in 1929, Derek Burgess spent his childhood in Hull, before joining the Royal Air Force in 1946 as an apprentice. Initially stationed at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire where he met and married Shelagh in 1953, the couple were also posted to Cornwall and Northern Ireland, where their sons Glenn and Roger were born. The family settled in Sapley Road, Hartford, in 1964, when Derek became an active member in many community organisations. He retired from the RAF in 1973 after reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. After attending Puttridge Bury college to gain his teaching qualifications, Derek joined the staff at Little Paxton Primary School in April 1975, where he spent the next 16 years inspiring youngsters with his maths and science lessons. A passionate teacher, known to be a firm but fair disciplinarian, he believed in the importance of making learning fun for young children. Bad health forced Derek to retire early from his teaching role in 1991. After two operations in Papworth Hospital, he enjoyed a full retirement contributing to several local organisations including the Hartford Rate Payers Association, Hartford Parent Teachers Association, St Peter's School PTA of which he was chairman, Air Training Corps 2331 Squadron for 17 years and Hartford Village Hall Committee. Along with wife Shelagh, he was an active member of the Huntingdon and Godmanchester Twinning Association, after the couple first hosted a German visitor in their home in 1981. Together with other members, they visited France, Germany and Hungary to represent Huntingdon. Derek was also a member of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) and a founder member and co-ordinator of his local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. The Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons (Socrates Lodge) also engaged his interest and support. A friend, colleague and neighbour for more than 30 years, Yvonne Perret described him as "a gentle man" who was "very aware of the needs of others and willing to attend to those needs as best he could". Derek died on May 9 with his family by his bedside. INFORMATION: His funeral will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at Bar Hill Crematorium at 10.30am. Family flowers only, donations to Royal Air Forces Association.