Tributes paid to true champion of young people

Roy Statham
Roy Statham

A COMMUNITY stalwart and champion of young people has died aged 76.

Known to his five children and 16 grandchildren as ‘Grumpy Gru’ for his reserved manner, Roy Statham, pictured, who lived in Holly Place, Willingdon Trees, was a leading light in a number of community projects in the area.

The former Royal Air Force engineer and keen motorcyclist spearheaded donations from neighbourhood panels to Willingdon Trees Boxing Club and Highfield Junior School. Oldest daughter Jacqui Asridge said when her father – chairman of Eastbourne Homes Panel – died on February 26 it was a surprise to hear of his prominent position in local life. The 52-year-old said, “He was a very proud and quiet man. He certainly didn’t boast about anything.”

Mrs Asridge, who was brought up by her father and grandmother added, “When we were growing up my father’s view was children should be seen and not heard and then he got older and had grandchildren and he realised there was more to it.

“But you always knew he loved you and if I was in trouble I would never be frightened to tell him because he would help you out – even though he might give you a lecture.

“Suddenly he realised there’s nothing for children. You have to rely on parents and schools and he felt as both parents now work nowadays, they weren’t giving children the time they should have.

“He was a firm believer that not all teenagers are bad, they just need guidance.”

Resident involvement manager for Eastbourne Homes James Leathers said Mr Statham had made an immediate impression on him.

He said, “His persuasive leadership of the panel led it to invest in local youth clubs, the Willingdon Trees Boxing Club and a number of other projects.

“Roy would always be modest about this, his involvement in his community meant that he did influence young people’s lives for the better.”

Mr Statham, who died of coronary artery disease, had enough time for one more passion – his huge red trike. He spent hours coasting along open roads and taking it to shows before arthritis in his hands and feet put an end to his riding.

He leaves five children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.