A much-loved ex-Luton hockey player and influential chairman has passed away.
Gilbert Read, 89, died on Monday, February 6, due to a bleed on the brain.
He played in Luton for more than 30 years, described as the “driving force” of Gipsy Lane’s Venue 360.
He was secretary of Vauxhall hockey section from 1958 to 1989 and was chairman of Chiltern Hockey Club when they moved to The Brache in 2002, before taking on the role as president.
Chiltern Hockey chair person, Helen Perrin, said: “Hockey was his lifeblood and many people from across the county and beyond will have met him through the six-a-side hockey tournaments which he organised for both ladies and men in Luton from 1957 to 1990. At its height there were some 64 teams participating. This was no small event he had built and developed.
“He always maintained a really active interest in the club and I had been pleased that he chose to remain part of our set up when we moved to our current home. He looked forward to reading the weekly team reports of how we were all doing and when he could, he would be on the side-line watching with real interest.
“Gilbert was one of life’s lovely people for whom it is a pleasure to be able to say that I knew him and was able to call him a friend. He cared about the game and about people, checking to make sure we had hot water in the showers on a Saturday and that light bulbs were replaced when required so as we did not need to get changed in the dark.
“He was a lovely man with a twinkle in his eye and a twirl of his moustache.
“On a personal note his support, friendship and laughter is a very special memory and I am sure that across the club we have between us so many of those moments at this very sad time.”
Chiltern Hockey Club club have agreed to make a donation to the charity of his family’s choice in his memory.
Their team, as well as the opposition, have been holding a one minute silence in his memory, and will remember Gilbert fondly at their club dinners.
Head of leisure and operations at Venue 360, Jason Goodall, said: “Everyone loved Gilbert’s visits and he would show us old photos of the venue from the 1930s. He was famous for his moustache!
“Gilbert was also a qualified first aider and taught courses at Vauxhall.
“He received an award for long service at Venue 360, and I will always remember his acceptance speech, when he said he was one of the luckiest blokes, because he was called up for service in the army the day before liberation took place.”
Born on the July 25, 1927, Gilbert lived briefly in Peterborough, until his parents moved to Luton to work at Vauxhall while he attended Denbigh School.
Since 1951 Gilbert was involved in a diverse range of activities, including the Vauxhall children’s christmas party and panto, chairing the Vauxhall 25-year club, and St John’s ambulance training, whilst he was vice chairman of the Rifle section from 1978 to 2009.
He was also Vauxhall Recreation Club secretary and, since 1990, chairman of Gents Hockey and since 2002, chairman of Vauxhall Chiltern Ladies.
He received the club’s Award of Merit for dedicated service in 1975 and a local sports administrator’s award in 2006.
In November 2014 over 40 members and staff gathered to acknowledge the contribution made by Gilbert to Vauxhall and Venue 360 over a period of 63 years.
At the time of his award, staff said: “Gilbert may be instantly recognisable to some of you as the distinguished looking gentleman with handlebar moustache, in blazer and greys with an important looking folder under his arm!
“Gilbert has shown outstanding loyalty and dedication to the club, and has provided excellent support to the staff, especially when you consider this was all in an honorary capacity.”
On behalf of the directors of the club, Neil Jackson presented Gilbert with a solid silver salver, engraved with the inscription: “To Gilbert Read in recognition of exceptional service to Vauxhall Recreation Club and Hockey and Rifle sections,” staff believing that no-one deserved it more!
>Gilbert’s funeral will be held on Tuesday, March 7, at Vale Crematorium at 1.45pm.