A man who dedicated his life to inspiring and helping others, despite being born with cerebral palsy and his parents being told he would not survive infancy, died on Sunday, June 22, at the age of 79.
John Owen Parry, known to most at Owen, was born in Hemel Hempstead on Jaunary 4, 1935. with cerebral palsy.
His parents John and Dorothy Parry were told he would not survive for more than two hours but from the moment he was born he showed the fighting spirit that would help define his life.
He was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where on many occasions Owen became the training doctor’s favourite specimen, as he was a willing subject and he enjoyed the limelight.
His parents were told he was not to be mollycoddled and let him have knocks and scrapes. With his parents’ help Owen became the independent caring person he was.
At the age of seven Owen’s sister Glynnis was born and he absolutely adored her. During childhood hospital trips and lengthy procedures were commonplace.
Between the ages of six and eight he was in hospital having tendons lengthened in his legs and he was surrounded by wounded soldiers.
In later life he often remarked: "Those were the days where I learned a lot."
Owen was 14 when he got his first NHS manual wheelchair before that he had to be pushed everywhere so the new chair gave him more independence.
He was home-tutored up till the age of ten by the local authority but he found that very isolating.
The first school he attended was St Margarets boarding school in Croydon; he was expelled two years later for having a "poor attitude".
At school they also tried to make Owen walk, but this was excruciating and stressful for him.
The school told Owen’s parents there was "something wrong with this child’s brain" but when he was referred to a psychiatrist his report said "this boy’s brain is better than my own".
He was home-tutored again until the age of 14 when he joined another boarding school for children with an array of disabilities in Wellingborough. He enjoyed it immensely and he left with a scholarship.
Owen got his first motorised trike, with a top speed of 12 MPH, when he was 18.
He started his first job working for a manufacturer of critical parts for the Ministry of Defence but faced many challenges in the workplace, not least pay.
Many companies were unwilling to pay Owen the wage everyone else got because he was disabled, but he fought for the right to be paid a "proper wage for a proper job".
Owen was told he would never hold a driving licence but he passed his driving test with flying colours. He operated a private car hire for a number of years and in 1970 he completed a sponsored drive around England and Wales to raise awareness and public support for the charity Scope.
Despite his disability he was also involved in the Scout movement for 25 years starting in the cubs rising to acting group Scout leader.
He loved going on camping trips. Nothing was too much for Owen and he often got to the top of precipitous hills by being pulled up by Scout friends in his wheelchair. He was the first Scout leader in South West Herts to be in charge of a mixed camp.
Owen got married at the age of 32 to Julie they were married for over 30 years.
He worked all his life and on his retirement he dedicated more of his time volunteering for many local charities.
He was the chairman of Shopmobility Watford, Chairman of Herts Pass, Trustee of Roundabout Transport, Committee member of Disability Watford and Vice President of PohWer.
He was honoured by the elected Mayor of Watford when he received her special award at the Watford Borough Council Au Dentior awards last year.
Owen’s carer and friend, Diane Booth, said: "I am so proud of Owen and all he has achieved in his life. He is an inspiration to us all.
"They all loved Owen as genuine gentleman and along with many many people will really miss him. He really was one in a million.
"I am truly grateful that I was able to be a in part of this man’s life."
The funeral service will be held at 4pm on Thursday, July 10, at West Herts Crematorium in Garston, followed by a reception at Shopmobility Watford, Ground Floor, Church Car Park, Exchange Road.