My grandfather, Bob Weighton, who has died from cancer, was an engineer, teacher and counsellor. He was 112, and had been the oldest man in the world for 58 days. The Guinness Book of Records delivered a certificate to him confirming this status two days after his last birthday on 29 March.
Bob was born in Kingston-upon-Hull, east Yorkshire, to Arthur Weighton, a vet, and Eliza (nee Pitts). He was the middle child of seven, and he recalled his childhood fondly even though his early years also coincided with the first world war. Bob remembered seeing Zeppelins bombing the city and sheltering with his family under the dining room table. Unusually for the time he attended Boulevard Municipal secondary school until he was 16, his father paying £3 a week so he could do so.
A marine engineering apprenticeship in the shipyards of Wallsend in Newcastle upon Tyne followed. Qualifying at the time of the Great Depression, Bob was unable to find work so decided to take up a teaching opportunity in Taiwan. After sailing east and arriving in 1933 Bob settled in for a year before going to Tokyo for two years to learn Japanese, the official language of Taiwan at that time. He returned to the island to teach at a missionary school in Tainan.
In 1937 Bob married Agnes Kinver in Hong Kong. Agnes was also a teacher and they had met when at teacher training college in Selly Oak, Birmingham, before Bob left for Taiwan. The couple’s first child, David, was born there in 1938 and when war looked imminent they decided to return to the UK in the following year.
Their passage home was halted in Vancouver, Canada by the outbreak of the second world war. All merchant shipping was requisitioned for the war effort leaving the family stranded. They sought refuge at the only address they had in Canada, which was in Toronto. While in Canada, Bob and Agnes had two more children: Peter (my father), who died in 2012, and Dorothy. During this time Bob often had to work far away from his young family, including as an aeronautical inspector in Hartford, Connecticut in the US.
Towards the end of the war he was employed by the British Political Warfare Mission in Denver, Colorado, to produce propaganda and translate Japanese military communications. The family eventually returned home to the UK in 1946. They settled into a new life in Hatch End, Middlesex, and Bob took up a position as a lecturer in marine engineering at what is now City University, London. Agnes went back to teaching and together they provided counselling to couples through the Marriage Guidance Council (now Relate).
Bob retired in 1973, beginning one of the longest retirements in the history of social security. He was never lonely – although Agnes died in 1995 – or unoccupied. He was involved with the church and community in Alton, Hampshire, where he lived, wrote a regular column on the environment, used his second bedroom as a workshop and he loved to meet people, whether they be old friends or new. He lived independently up to the last few weeks of his life. A man of faith, wisdom and humility, Bob was also charming and funny.
He is survived by David and Dorothy, 10 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
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