Geraint Thomas (1950 - 2019)
My father-in-law, Geraint Thomas, who has died aged 69, was the cabinet member for environmental services and sustainability at Crawley borough council in West Sussex – a position he took up after 30 years of inspiring pupils as a geography teacher.
Born in Horsham to David Lloyd Thomas, a lecturer in metallurgy at Imperial College London, and Eleanor (nee Owen), a nurse, Geraint was educated at Collyer’s grammar school (now the College of Richard Collyer), where he was head boy, and lived in Crawley most of his life. He and his future wife, Jen Isaac, met at Aberystwyth University and married in 1974.
For the next three decades, Geraint taught secondary pupils at Hazelwick, St Wilfrid’s and Warden Park schools. Following early retirement in 2005, he became a Labour councillor, increasing his majority every time he was elected. Voters of all persuasions recognised that his dedication to helping individuals and their town transcended party politics, and political colleagues valued his effective campaigning and grasp of policy detail and implications. All valued his transparent goodness.
A prominent debater in the council chamber, Geraint used his portfolio to lead the council’s response to the climate emergency, working to improve recycling rates and sustainable transport. He brought intellectual rigour to the planning committee, defending new town planning principles in the context of recent legislation. Geraint was an exemplary ward councillor for Northgate, then Ifield, and many residents are grateful for his committed assistance with local government and public service issues.
His work in the community encompassed serious, long-term involvement in Ifield Park care home, the Crawley Open House charity, the Ifield Society and as a governor of Northgate primary school. A notable success was Geraint’s campaign for the protection of rural Ifield, which saved Ifield Brook Meadows from housing developers. He was also active in the formation of Northgate Matters residents’ group, in opposing a second runway at Gatwick, and was an advocate for Gatwick Detainees welfare group.
Thanks to Geraint, a beautiful, handwritten scroll honouring soldiers of Lowfield Heath (now overtaken by Gatwick airport) killed in the first world war was moved from the obscurity of the redundant local church to Crawley museum. “I had a sense of responsibility that it deserved to be seen,” he said.
Geraint was a proud European, keen cyclist and regular blood donor, matching his social conscience with practical actions. Naturally, he was a Guardian supporter, particularly valuing its investigative journalism.
He loved theatre and music, sang in various choirs, and played the piano and, latterly, the cello. An accomplished sportsman in his youth, he remained a passionate supporter of the Wales rugby team and the England and Wales cricket team.
Geraint was an immense figure, full of love, compassion, action and humour. He is survived by Jen and his daughter, Helen, and twin grandsons, Hugh and Thomas.
Author Ciarán Mc Mahon.
With thanks to ‘The Guardian’ for their permission to publish.
Photograph: Andrea Sarlo