Charity founder gave holidays to the needy

PATRICK Laurance – who dedicated his life to helping others, campaigning for his local community and bringing smiles to the faces of everyone he met – has died aged 88

PATRICK Laurance - who dedicated his life to helping others, campaigning for his local community and bringing smiles to the faces of everyone he met - has died aged 88.

Mr Laurance, who lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb, tirelessly helped other people both locally and further afield.

Together with his beloved wife Joan, he founded the Family Holiday Association, which pays for trips abroad for vulnerable families, in 1975.

The couple are also well-known locally for their campaigning spirit - most notably in 2006 when they single-handedly won a new pedestrian crossing for the site of several accidents at North End Road.

The crossing's unveiling coincided with the Laurances' 60th wedding anniversary and Mr Laurance told the Ham&High the secret of their success.

"We are thrilled about the road and our anniversary," he said.

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"The secret to a long marriage is the compensatory factor. Over 60 years I think I have spent at least a year of my life waiting for my wife. But then she has spent at least a year looking for my glasses and my keys - that's the secret. It is essential in all happy marriages."

Mr Laurance was born on Christmas Eve 1919 in Southend- on-Sea, Essex. He attended Lindisfarne College boarding school until he was 17 and then worked in a fashion cutting shop until faced with joining the army.

He was going to remain a pacifist but on hearing about the horror of the concentration camps, Mr Laurance was prompted to sign up - not least because his mother was Jewish.

He signed up in 1939 and served in North Africa and Italy with the Royal Army Service Corps, where he was promoted to Captain.

He was well-known for his bridge playing abilities and also for keeping morale up in his unit.

One of his favourite stories was how he had to commandeer 500 donkeys from the local population.

In 1946 he married Joan Hart and began work as a sales manager. Sadly in 1953 the couple lost their second baby daughter and Mr Laurance became unemployed.

At that time, a friend offered them a week's stay in his seaside flat which inspired the couple to set up the Family Holiday Association. Since 1975 it has helped some 1,600 families.

But the charity work didn't end there. Mr Laurance also spent many years as a Samaritan.

And, most recently, he volunteered every week to cheer up patients at the Finchley Memorial Hospital, worked for the charity Dying In Dignity and even ran an elderly persons' club in Mill Hill - where most of the members were younger than him.

In the 1970s, he was a local Conservative councillor but resigned disillusioned with party politics.

He also helped in the world of sport, refereeing youth football games up until three years ago and was a passionate South End FC supporter, an avid cricketer and tennis player.

He died on January 11 while undergoing heart surgery.

He will be remembered for entertaining his grandson with magic tricks and as a dedicated father to his two daughters Pauline and Pamela and, of course, as husband to his wife Joan.

Donations in his memory should be made at PatrickLaurance.