John brought cheer to thousands of children

JohnBarber2009: Thousands of children in eastern European countries enjoyed some Christmas cheer thanks to a long-serving Norfolk churchwarden, John Barber, who has died aged 64.

He and wife, Shirley, co-ordinated the distribution of Christmas gifts from the greater Norwich area through their Buxton home. Last year, their team despatched a total of 14,000 shoebox parcels to children in eastern Europe.

Mr Barber was born, raised and went to the village school before going to Aylsham High School. He had always wanted to work in gardens and later became head groundsman for Norwich High School.

He started his own landscape and gardening business until ill-health forced his premature retirement about two years ago. He died suddenly but peacefully at Priscilla Bacon Lodge.

They were married at the Salvation Army Citadel in Norwich 34 years ago and later were both confirmed in Norwich Cathedral.

He was a churchwarden at St Mary the Virgin and St Botolph, Hevingham, for 15 years, where he was also a keen bellringer. He became tower captain at the church, which had five good bells including a 12cwt tenor.

Retired vicar, the Rev John Walden, of Bowthorpe, Norwich, said Mr Barber was always “full of fun” and “a stalwart” of the village.

Mr and Mrs Barber both worked incredibly hard, and without fuss, for Samaritan's Purse, which is an international Christian organisation supporting the Operation Christmas Child gift scheme. As the joint eastern area co-ordinators, they collected thousands of shoeboxes packed with small Christmas gifts.

“He and Shirley have sent tens and tens of thousands of shoeboxes to eastern Europe together with their team in Norfolk. It has been a tremendous logistical thing to have over the years,” said Mr Walden.

An address at the service of thanksgiving at St Andrew's, Buxton, on Saturday, April 4 (11am) will be given by a former rector of Hevingham, Canon Patrick Foreman, who recently retired from Heacham.

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., 04/04/2009

Published: 04/04/2009