Date added: 8 Feb 2017
Wing Commander (retd) John Higgins lived nearly 96 years, growing up in Epping Forest in the 1930's before joining the Royal Air Force to see service around the world and during WW2.
John was married to Mary Holroyd on 14 September 1946, after meeting Mary when she served in the Women's Land Army in the Kingham area of the Cotswolds during the war.
John and Mary were happily married for over 70 years, and had four sons, Mike, Pete, Chris and John, of whom Mike and John survive.
John rose steadily through the ranks of the RAF, settling at Squadron Leader for many years before a final promotion to Wing Commander. During of service before retirement at 55 John travelled around to world, to countries and places that must have been beyond the dreams of his childhood years in Epping Forest.
His RAF travels included a multi-hop flight and ship journey to South Africa via the Middle East, in the years when flight ranges were limited to hundreds of miles and four or more days from the UK to South Africa was normal.
He travelled to Burma, Singapore, and elsewhere in SE Asia, and in the 1960's to Bahrain, Egypt and the Middle East again.
John was stationed for several years at the RAF Brüggen base in northern Germany, close to the Dutch border, where he became a very proficient German speaker.
John's last postings in the RAF were to RAF Brampton, Linton-on-Ouse and back to Brampton. John continued to live in the village of Brampton in Cambridgeshire until his recent death, and Mary still lives in their family home of the past 45 years.
After retiring from the RAF John taught engineering for several months at the local Huntingdon technical college. I remember John loved sharing knowledge and he was always happy getting stuck into an engineering problem or calculation or employing his great practical engineering craft skills to build or repair almost anything.
John then joined the (then) rapidly growing Royal British Legion Housing Association as the Eastern Region Housing manager, overseeing the construction and operation of dozens of RBLHA sheltered housing developments and travelling extensively by road through East Anglia, East Midlands and elsewhere in the South East of England, as well as running the regional office team based in Huntingdon. This travel allowed him to indulge his lifelong interest in amateur photography, and to combine it with a new interest in village signs, which were becoming increasing common in the villages of the Fens, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. He built up a large collection of slides of village signs and other prominent buildings, researched their history and narrated cassette tape commentaries. Again, his love for research and sharing gave him and many others (such as local WI groups) huge pleasure.
After retiring from the RBLHA at 65, John and Mary continued to travel extensively around Europe, with John enjoying practising his German language skills (developed during his RAF time in northern Germany) during travels to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
John remained physically active well into his 90th year, regularly (several times a week weather permitting) walking the 5 mile return from Brampton to Huntingdon to visit the library, or just for the exercise and pleasure of the journey. He also continued driving and the independence this gave John and Mary was a great source of pleasure and interest for them both.
Sadly much of John's mobility was lost following a stroke in early 2013. His last three years were challenging for a man who was fiercely independent, and loved all forms of travel and communicating (even taking to email and the internet in his 80s). The limitations on mobility and speech he suffered frustrated him, as did an increasing dependence on others (Mary and latterly professional carers Agy and Josie from Care at Home) for personal care. In his typical way, he rarely complained and was stoical throughout.
Following several difficult months of infections and hospital admissions, John's last day was spent joining a group exercise class at Ringshill Care Home and sharing the afternoon with Mary. He died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of 31 January 2017. Despite a difficult last three years, John had lived a very full, healthy, active and happy life for 93 years. With his love of travel, his final journey to the undiscovered country would be a source of excitement.
Written on behalf of his loving family and especially Mary, Mike, Frances, John, Curtis, John and Maria by his grateful son John.
For Dad - a very gentle man, and loving and selfless husband and father.