FORMER Bromsgrove Society president Graham Reddie MBE, who was a real champion for the town, has died at the age of 90.
Graham was one of the founder members of the society when it launched in 1982 and was the second chairman in 1983 and president from 2001 to 2010.
During his tenure, he saw the group increase its membership to become one of the largest civic societies in the Midlands.
With his architectural and town planning background, Graham instigated the first Society Architectural Awards and Exhibition in 1984, organised a clean-up of the Spadesbourne Brook and promoted better relations with the council by organising regular meetings with its leaders and the MP.
Graham often spoke at the society’s AGMs and annual lectures, introducing guest speakers and facilitating questions.
He also took Bromsgrove District Council to task on several occasions, claiming they needed more of a long-term plan for the town and calling on the authority to do more to combat climate change. He suggested, in a letter, the Council House roof have solar panels on it.
He openly backed the electrification of the line serving Bromsgrove Railway Station so there would be faster trains from the town into Birmingham so journey times for commuters could be cut. That line is due to be fully electrified next year.
He also called for open debate about the councils’ controversial proposals to knock down the former Pakside School building. Both district and county wanted to bulldoze it and replace it with another building to serve as a hub for the town.
The Bromsgrove hub, incorporating offices for both authorities, a council chamber, JobCentre Plus and the new Bromsgrove Library opened in the listed Parkside building at the end of last year.
Ron Skidmore, chairman of the Bromsgrove Society Environment Committee, said: “He had strong ideas about how to improve Bromsgrove and was critical of the towns road infrastructure, suggesting innovative solutions to overcome various perceived problems as part of discussion points at the regular council meetings.
“Although Graham ceased to be a regular attendee of society meetings, he would often meet other members at his home to discuss society matters and make suggestions for the continued involvement of the society in the improvement of the town.
“His contribution to the society will be difficult to replace.”
Graham was also an active member of Bromsgrove Rail Users Group (BRUG) and regularly represented the society at meetings.
Graham was born in Chiswick in 1925 and grew up there before moving to the Peak District where he went to the Abbotshome School in Uttoxeter which was founded by his great uncle Cecil Reddie.
He left school at 17 and lied about his age to get into the Royal Navy to serve his country in the Second World War and was posted on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.
After the war, he trained and qualified at the School of Architecture, part of University College London.
There he met the love of his life Ethel Mary who was training to be a doctor. When he proposed to her, he jokingly did so on the premise that she used Mary – his preferred name for her – from then on. The couple tied the knot and had one son – John – and later two grandchildren – Charlie and Joanna.
Workwise, he was involved in the planning of Guildford and Kingston-Upon-Thames and moved to Worcestershire in 1966 to become the deputy chief architect and planner for the Redditch Development Corporation, set up to build the new town.
He later became the RDC’s chief architect and planner.
When he retired, he became secretary of MASA (Midlands Amenity Societies Association), a group aimed at, among other tasks, encouraging people to look carefully at older buildings and think about how they could be used and preserved, rather than demolishing them and replacing them. This, said his son, epitomised everything Graham stood for, adding he would be sadly missed by many.
“We have had a lot of people contact us with their condolences and they have all spoken about what a character he was and how much he did for Bromsgrove,” added John.
In the New Year’s Honours of 1998/99, Graham received an MBE in his role as MASA secretary for ‘services to the Built Environment in the Midlands’.
He also did carpentry in his spare time and was well-known for making items, such as tables, chairs and benches for his friends and family.
He passed away peacefully last Wednesday (January 20) at Burcot Grange.
Mary died at the end of November and, despite his struggles, Graham reached his 90th birthday last month and made it through the festive season.
His funeral will be held at Redditch Crematorium at 2.45pm on February 8.