Town mourns the loss of ‘remarkable’ Ron

jpco-18-1-12- Ron Cornwell MBE (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco-18-1-12- Ron Cornwell MBE (Pic by Jon Rigby)

A ‘ remarkable’ man who dedicated his life to helping others through his charity work has died.

Ron Cornwell MBE, from Gossops Green, died on Monday last week (February 4) aged 83, after a long battle with kidney disease.

The former RAF soldier of 23 years, was president of the Crawley and Ifield British Legion, and it was his dedication to helping people that he was best known for in the town.

Friend Alan Tait said: “His first leap into voluntary work was during his last years in the RAF. He raised money for the Wolf Cub Pack scouts and bought them camping gear.

“He then went into civilian life where he joined the Lloyd Shipping Register as a trainer for non destructive testing of radiology for ships. They got a training centre in Crawley which is why he moved to the town in 1970 and stayed here for 43 years.

“He became a member of the Royal British Legion and SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) and RAFA (Royal Air Forces Association). He was the person in charge of the Crawley division of SSAFA and on average each year he was helping around 70 to 80 individuals.”

As Ron settled into life in Crawley he joined the golf club, the Crawley Club and the Masonic Movement.

In 1984 he became a magistrate at Crawley Magistrates’ Court, where he served until retirement at 70.

In 1991 Ron and a colleague from the British Legion set up charity Furni-Aid. The charity is based in Ifield and provides furniture to people on low income who need help furnishing their homes.

Alan said: “Ron came across two victims of the Gulf War, who were military wives. They came to Crawley and were housed in council accommodation which was unfurnished. They had no means of buying furniture. So Ron and a colleague from the British Legion went around in the legion’s mini bus and knocked on doors asking anyone if they had any unwanted furniture.

“They were able to fill up both women’s flats from donations but realised they had a lot of furniture left over and thought we could be on to something here. That is when they started up Furni-Aid. It is still developing to this day and has helped so many people. ”

In 1997 Ron was made a MBE for his services to the people of Crawley.

Alan continued: “Ron continued his charity work, right through to the end. He had been very ill and on dialysis three times a week but he continued to be involved in all manor of charities and was the chairman, president or vice chairman of many of them.

“Ron was someone who was remarkable, totally dependable and dedicated, and something of a mentor to me. When he was a senior magistrate, I went for a position as a magistrate and he was on the interviewing panel. He kept asking me what my involvement in charity work was and how I felt about the voluntary work. I was appointed to the bench and I soon found myself involved in charity work, and that was Ron, he was always on the look out for new volunteers. He was quite remarkable.”

A funeral service for Ron, who leaves two sons, will be held at St John’s Church in Crawley town centre, at noonon Tuesday (February 19).