Everybody at ABC loved John Copson who has died, aged 81, of complications following cancer surgery.
Despite never joining the committee he worked tirelessly for the club for years; arriving early, leaving late, putting out tables and scoring the bridge, alongside his friend John Bradley who said he would be sorely missed:
“I always enjoyed our sessions before the game,” he said. One of my memories is of us setting up tables, hoping we weren’t going to be the only two who turned up!
“I shall miss him and the club will miss him and his friendly face when people walked in. We always appreciated the effort he made.”
Chairman Sarah Chamberlin said: “John Copson was the best club member we could ever hope to have. He was kind, courteous and very much a gentleman. He was just such a lovely chap. Everyone loved him. I don’t think we could have had anyone nicer.”
Val Bobbins agrees. “John was the kindest, most thoughtful, caring person. A real gentleman in every sense of the word. I will miss him so much as my bridge partner and friend.”
She knows he was disappointed with support for the face-to-face sessions post-Covid and would like to think that could be rectified in coming months in John’s memory.
As Jan Wells put it: “There are some people that you bump into in your daily life and feel better just for seeing them and John was one of those!”
My personal anecdote demonstrating John’s thoughtful, caring nature dates back to 2017 when I fell and broke my hip. We both lived in Little Melton at the time. The moment I could totter in from the car park post-surgery John provided a taxi service to and from the club twice a week for a month until I was allowed to drive again.
Outside bridge John’s world revolved around his adored family.
His son, retired Norwich GP Dr Steven Copson, describes his Dad as his hero, his inspiration:
“His was a life well lived. He made the most of it. I grew up wanting to be my Dad. He made the lives of people he met better. We’re all very proud of him.”
Steve tells how John was born in 1941 in a village called Frolesworth in Leicestershire on a mixed farm, which supplied the family market garden and stall on Nuneaton Market which he later helped to run.
John initially attended a tiny one classroom village school but, when he was eight, an educational psychologist found he was functioning at the age of 11½ with an IQ of 157 so he was sent to board at a nearby grammar school in Ashby-de-la Zouch where he loved playing cricket and football.
He took A levels early but didn’t like the university Chemistry course he started aged 17 and went home – at which point a pretty acquaintance called Carole inadvertently dropped her college books, just as he was passing! They married in 1961 when John was 20.
John and Carole joined his parents on the farm where Steve was born, followed by his sister Sally in 1965. But John wanted a new challenge so, in 1968, his grandparents sold up and bought a scruffy shop and post office in Hundon, Suffolk. It was there that John’s younger daughter Tori appeared in 1971.
Over 18 years he transformed the village shop and post office into a thriving business - a bit ahead of its time with its delicatessen, paper round, little off licence and fresh fruit and vegetables.
But by then weekly trips to supermarkets loomed on the horizon and the writing was on the wall for village shops so John started working for a friend of his in engineering business Metcraft of Haverhill. He was its General Manager by the time he retired.
It was then that he and Carole moved to Norfolk, by which time Steve was a GP in Norwich and Tori was studying law and had got work experience in a city firm where she later worked. Their sister Sally was teaching in Suffolk, not too far away.
“I think I owe my career as a GP to Dad,” said Steve. My 6th form tutor, being realistic, thought I wasn’t up to it. But Dad believed in us all and told me to have a go and said it didn’t matter if I didn’t make it.
“He was a young Dad and a wonderful Dad and my friends all thought he was cool. My earliest and favourite memories are probably of him playing with us in the garden.
“And then of just helping out – I had a lovely childhood. If I was at a loose end he’d always give me a bit of pocket money for stacking shelves or pricing things up in the shop.
By the time I was a teenager he was only in his early 30s which meant we grew up playing golf and cricket together.
“We were friends. He involved me in everything he did. He was very bright and able and could talk to anybody. At school he played bridge as well as chess and, all his life, whatever he got involved in, he ended up organising.
“I know how much his bridge meant to him and how much his friends at the bridge club meant to him. He felt very kindly towards you all.
“Bridge was something he loved. I remember him playing at Bury St Edmunds on a Monday night from the early to mid-70s and buying books on bidding systems. I was a great disappointment to him! We all played whist but bridge was far too complicated for me!”
The EDP notice describes John as a wonderful husband to Carole, father to Steve, Sally and Tori, grandad to Sam, Grace, Joe, Harriet, Evie, Tom and Ed – and great grandad to Ezra whose photo is above.
His expressed wish was for a private funeral with family flowers only but he received exceptional care from the Uro-oncology team at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital where he died on 9 February 2023. If anyone wishes to make a donation to N&N Hospitals Charity in his memory this can be done online at www.allcockfunerals.co.uk or via Allcock Family Funeral Services, Falcon House, 96a City Road, Norwich NR1 2HD telephone 01603 766996