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News > OP updates > Obituaries > John Webber RIP

John Webber RIP

13 Mar 2024
John at the unveiling of the Jimmy Dickinson statue at Fratton Park
John at the unveiling of the Jimmy Dickinson statue at Fratton Park

John Webber
OP 1963
18 February 1945 – 31 December 2023

With our thanks to John's friends Keith Tomlins and Roger Crouch (both OP 1963)

John joined PGS from Northern Parade School in 1953, aged eight.  In the Lower School he played cricket for the Nicol House XI and was Captain of the School 2nd XI football team. In the Senior School he was unhappy to be forced to switch to rugby. He served in the Army Section of the CCF, gaining the rank of Sergeant. Academically, John was an “A Streamer “ throughout his time at PGS and decided at an early stage that languages were to be his forte, and in 1962 he was awarded a Modern Language Prize. 

John left PGS in 1963 to study French at Reading University, where he met Anna. He was not aware that she also came from Portsmouth until he found himself on the same train as her when returning to their home town on vacation. That chance encounter led later to a long marriage of some 55 years from 1968. They had two children, Matt born in 1978 and Beatrice in 1982, to both of whom John provided enormous encouragement and support throughout his life. 

After graduating with Second class Upper Honours in 1967 John was accepted to do research towards an M.A in French, but after spending a year “teaching English as a foreign language”, (as it was then called) in Bordeaux he was convinced that his future lay in that sphere. After a further course of study he was awarded a Dip.Ed. at Reading before embarking on his career. John held the position of Senior Lecturer at Waltham Forest College, teaching there for 32 years, and was appointed the Chief Examiner for the University of Cambridge Examinations in TEFL.

The son of two schoolteachers, John was a gifted and devoted teacher, regularly going beyond the call of duty to ensure success for his students, often spending long extra hours in preparing them for examinations. He would organise for them outings, theatre trips and visits to places of interest in the UK to support their language learning and to help broaden their horizons. A good number of his former pupils paid him the rare tribute of attending his funeral and singing his praises at the wake. The Mother Superior of a religious order told how John had enabled proficiency in English for a succession of her French-speaking Sisters over many years.

Football, which meant above all Pompey, was John’s lifelong passion. He would leap for joy at Fratton Park or Wembley whenever they won, but maintained a stoical face after their defeats, always loyal in support. He acquired an enormous archive of Pompey memorabilia, collected over a period of seventy years, and on his final visit to Fratton Park he was delighted to be invited to witness the unveiling of the long-awaited Jimmy Dickinson statue and to attend the reception afterwards.

When John was not watching football in his spare time, he was playing it. While at PGS he appeared regularly for the Corinthians, a team formed of fellow pupils, in the South East Hampshire Sunday Youth League. After University he had a long career with Birkbeck veterans, and in his 70s still played on Blackheath Common with a team called The Heathens, often with and against players less than half his age.

John’s courage in fighting cancer over the last five years of his life was an example to us all. In spite of multiple operations, with all the physical problems that generated, he remained undaunted and positive throughout. He was still out running with his children, up to 10km, to raise money for charity, and sometimes with them all kitted out as Father Christmas. He also adored the Lake District, conquering most of its peaks in earlier years, and even walking the dales in September 2023 still battling his cancer. To the end his spirit never faltered.

He was delighted in his final year to become a grandfather and to spend time playing with his grandson. He finally passed away at home, as he wanted, surrounded by his family.  By them, and by all his friends, he will be sadly missed

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