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Tribute to Roger Newton

by Christina Jeffery – 24th June 2012
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Roger Newton (69), the Haddenham village wood carver, who succumbed to his long battle against cancer on May 24, died in the same room as the one he'd been born in. There was standing room only at St Mary's Church for a service of thanksgiving led by the Rev Margot Hodson on June 6.

One of the tributes was given by Roger's cousin Tony Soper, who outlined his life. Roger was educated at Haddenham County School and Rycotewood College, Thame, before going on to Wycombe College where he studied cabinet making, whilst an apprentice in the family business, Ivor Newton and Son. The business was founded by Walter Rose, famed for his well-known book The Village Carpenter. Upon the death, in 1973, of Ivor his father, Roger took over the management of the business which involved most aspects of woodworking, both local and nationwide; a major undertaking being the renovation of the Lady Chapel roof at St Mary's Church, Haddenham. His wood carving skills were in demand and examples are to be seen at Stowe School, Waddesdon Manor and a variety of public house signs. Among such signs are the Abingdon Moreland Man and a life size British Bulldog. At the residence 'Duck Bottom' in lower Flint Street Haddenham, is the torso of a duck and the duck's bottom, adorning the front entrance.

From the age of 14, Roger was an enthusiastic cyclist, belonging then and for the remainder of his life to the Aylesbury Cycling Club. He later became a promising racing cyclist turning professional and competing in the Tour of Britain, Tour of Yugoslavia, Tour of Belgium and Tour of Switzerland. In successive years, third and second placings were achieved as National Professional Road Race Champion.

Roger met Jane, the secretary at Hartwell House, while he was undertaking restoration work on the church there. The couple married at St Mary's Church in 1981. He was an enthusiastic collector of classic cars and bikes (his penny farthing and his latest 'state of the art bike', a De Rosa, took pride of place in the church during the commemoration service). Roger and Jane, along with son Tom and daughter Lucy, attended many car rallies in one or another of his cars, the latest being a 1962 Ford Zodiac Convertible, which were also to be seen on display at village fêtes and other events. Skiing, cycling and walking holidays were enjoyed by the family at their apartment in Evolene, an alpine village at 1400 metres in the Valais region of Switzerland.

Tributes were also given by Tom and by Lucy, personal and poignant words and poems which touched many in the church. Derek Clark, Roger's father-in-law and often his cycling companion, regaled the congregation with humorous anecdotes about their various, often hair-raising, trips in Provence and Switzerland, when Roger was able to make full use of his flair for languages.

Many people later met for refreshments at The Green Dragon where they were able to record their memories in a personal anthology. The family would greatly appreciate being contacted by others with such memories to add. A collection was taken at the end of the service for Florence Nightingale Hospice and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The family have received an overwhelming number of cards and kind words expressing the loss of such a modest, generous and true gentleman who will be missed by so many in the community.

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