Obituaries

The philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson asserted that “all history is biography”—it is individuals, after all, who shape history. Obituaries are micro-biographies and can be regarded therefore, like much journalism, as a first take on history. They are snapshots of extraordinary or unusual lives that have helped to shape history. They act as shorthand for historical record.

These obituaries are of those who pioneered, or were associated with, the international work of Initiatives of Change, formerly known as MRA (Moral Re-Armament). The obituaries act as a social record of a global movement which has laid claim to have changed the course of history in a whole range of endeavours—politics and diplomacy, business and industry, theatre and the arts, sports and the media, race and community relations, education and healthcare, development and international affairs. I have had the privilege of recording some of their lives. I hope these obituaries capture something of the subjects’ inner lives, struggles and motivations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” (Though if one has any notion of an afterlife, then what lies before us becomes all too pertinent!)

No one in this collection would have regarded themselves as a saint so much as a forgiven sinner. As Oscar Wilde wrote, in his play Lady Windermere’s Fan, “Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future”.  But they have all lived adventurous, fulfilled and even heroic lives. They have played their part in changing the world; they have left it a better place. In so doing they can perhaps be numbered among the company of saints. A new generation now carries forward the work that they pioneered. Readers will be equally inspired to follow their own adventurous callings in life. 

Michael Smith

Honorary member, International Association of Obituarists

David Hume (1932-2019)

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Scottish peace activist known for his work in Northern Ireland.

Bob Webb (1928-2018)

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A newsman known for his vision for journalism as a force that could help heal the deepest hurts and bridge the widest divides

Vendela Tyndale Biscoe (1950-2018)

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The Swedish actress Vendela Tyndale Biscoe might have become an internationally known Scandi Noir actor. She studied at the theatre academy in Malmo alongside such stars as Krister Henriksson (of ‘Kurt Wallander’ fame), who remained lifelong friends.

Beverly Almond (1918 - 2018)

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American adventurer in Bletchley and the Middle East - as a young socialite shaken by Pearl Harbour, Beverly Kitchen asked her uncle in the Pentagon what she could do for the war effort. She was given a typing job there with military intelligence in 1942. By the end of next year she was in Bletchley Park, the top secret UK decoding centre.

Richard Hawthorne (1931-2018)

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Richard Hawthorne was a Nottingham businessman who became an unlikely champion of community relations. He was joint chairman of Hawthornes printers, a company that emerged out of a small printing works and stationery shops in the city owned by his father.

Geoffrey Craig (1944-2018)

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Film distributor who played bagpipes on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro

Stanley Kiaer (1931 – 2017)

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Secretary of the Oxford Group and Westminster Theatre trusts, Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, and much loved mentor in IofC's London centre.

Hugh Steadman Williams (1935 – 2016)

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A playwright whose work was performed for President Jomo Kenyatta and Emperor Haile Selassie, Williams wrote on the subject of reconciliation, and inspired the African conservationists that surrounded him to reconcile and reunite the relationship between animals and people.

Kojo Jantuah (1963-2015)

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Lawyer and authority on the slave trade who made an epic trek across the Sahara in search of his Danish roots

Vijay Narain Seth (1944-2014)

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Cartoonist whose humane and gently satirical work illuminated the foibles and idiosyncrasies of Indian life

Ambassador Bill Peters (1923-2014)

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High-flying diplomat who went on to co-found the Jubilee 2000 international debt remission campaign

Joy Pearce (1936-2014)

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Drama teacher whose early classroom setbacks inspired a scheme for thinking about morality through theatre

John Vickers (1914-2013)

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Oilman whose Christian faith gave him the belief that industry should be a moral force in society

Rosa Maria Carless (1921-2013)

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Artist, writer and wife of a British diplomat

Margaret Jackson (1917-2013)

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Personal assistant at the heart of the Special Operations Executive

Stephen Miles (1920-2013)

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Highly regarded diplomat who helped save Tanzania from a military coup

Russi Lala (1928-2012)

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Mumbai editor and author who ran India’s first publishing house in London

Archie Mackenzie (1915-2012)

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Diplomat and founder member of the UN who was a leading advocate of action to address the developing world’s economic problems

Mammo Wudney (1931-2012)

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Chairman of the Ethiopian Writers' Association who played a critical role in saving Addis Ababa, the capital city, from a bloodbath during the final throes of President Mengistu's military Marxist regime

Fiona Edwards (1915-2011)

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Builder of a pioneering interracial community in Jamaica

Bert Reynolds (1915-2012)

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One of the world's oldest online editors

Hugh Carless (1925-2011)

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Diplomat who explored the Hindu Kush with Eric Newby

Leif Hovelsen (1923-2011)

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Norwegian resistance fighter who was captured and tortured by the Gestapo but determined on reconciliation, not revenge

James Hore-Ruthven (1936-2011)

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Pioneer in the field of conflict resolution

Bryan Boobbyer (1928-2011)

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England rugby union international who left professional sport to join Moral Re-Armament

Philippe Mottu (1913-2010)

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Founder of an international centre for postwar reconciliation in Caux, Switzerland.

Ken Rundell (1919-2010)

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Cornishman who founded the Agora Christian community in St Petersburg, Russia

Ailsa Hamilton (1933-2010)

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Documentary film producer, author and mentor

Duncan Corcoran (1913-2010)

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Short of stature, big of heart, a Greenock shipyard worker who became a force for change on a world stage.

Dick Cosens (1933-2009)

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Trade union activist who helped to get Concorde off the ground

John Faber (1924-2009)

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Naval officer who became Secretary of The Oxford Group and its campaigns for moral and spiritual rearmament.

Dell Williams (1933-2009)

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Magazine and theatre publicity designer

Bill Porter (1920-2009)

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Publisher and media ethics campaigner

Eric Andren (1938-2008)

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Architect, inventor, pilot and poet, C. Erik Andren wrote a "changing course" for aspiring politicians and young professionals in Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism.

Melville Carson (1919-2008)

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Stalag Luft III prison camp survivor who forgave the Germans

David Hind (1919-2008)

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David Hind, who became joint Managing Director of Hawthornes printers and stationers in Nottingham, was an adventurer with a great empathy for people.

David Channer (1925-2006)

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Photographer and film-maker who devoted his life to making films about reconciliation and forgiveness.

Ken Stewart (1911-2006)

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Dublin-born surgeon who served with distinction in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II

Les Dennison (1915-2006)

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Burma Railway survivor who refused to cast himself in the victim role

Alec Smith (1949-2006)

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Son of the Rhodesian leader Ian Smith, who became an outspoken critic of white rule and worked to build bridges with the country’s black community

Jaroslava Moserova (1930-2006)

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Burns doctor, playwright and politician in Prague under four decades of Soviet Communist rule who was the first doctor to treat the student dissident Jan Palach after his self-immolation

Frits Philips (1905-2005)

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Former President of Philips who ran the family electronics company during the German occupation

Michael Thwaites (1915-2005)

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Poet and Australian spymaster

Peter Harland (1934 - 2005)

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Newspaper editor and founder of Bookwatch

Charis Waddy (1909-2004)

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Interpreter of Islam respected across the Muslim world.

Hugh Elliott (1911-2004)

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Moving spirit behind Rhodesia's 'cabinet of conscience'

George Walker (1909-2004)

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For 20 years the editor of The Industrial Pioneer, an independent and campaigning workers’ paper which aimed to hold a ‘constructive shop floor view of British industry’.

Arthur Strong (1908-2004)

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Pioneering photographer who took rare portraits of CS Lewis.

Kenneth Belden (1912-2002)

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Kenneth Belden was chairman of the trustees of the Westminster Theatre during the 1960s and 70s when it was the centre of Christian drama in the West End.

Neville Cooper (1924-2002)

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Neville Cooper, founder of Britain’s Institute of Business Ethics, saw integrity as essential.

William Jaeger (1912-2002)

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Bill Jaeger, a pioneer of Moral Re-Armament, was a confidante of labour leaders thoughout the world.

Stanley Barnes (1908-2001)

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The international dairy expert Stanley Barnes was passionately committed to the alleviation of malnutrition, particularly among children in developing countries at a time when one in five would die before the age of five. He advocated the use of milk produce, including skimmed-milk powder, despite the controversies surrounding the inappropriate use of powder as an alternative to mothers' milk sold directly to them and promoted by food multinationals. Instead, Barnes's approach was to set up milk-processing plants throughout Asia.

Ryuzaburo Kaku (1926-2001)

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Chairman and Chief Executive of Canon who advocated global ethical values

Bunny Austin (1906-2000)

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British tennis star of the 1930s.

Group Captain Patrick Foss OBE (1913-1996)

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Joined the RAF in 1932, flew in the Battle of Britain and founded Air Transport Command.

Paul Campbell (1912-1995)

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Paul Campbell was, for 19 years, the personal doctor to Frank Buchman, founder of the Oxford Group and its campaigns for Moral Re-Arament, and, with the British journalist Peter Howard, did much to shape the direction of the movement after Buchman's death in 1961.

Michael Barrett (1912-1995)

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A principal pioneer of the Moral Re-Armament movement as secretary to Frank Buchman, its American founder.