Grieving family’s tribute to a Topsham ‘force of nature’

PUBLISHED: 10:30 06 January 2016

Graham Ward in his days as a photographer.

Graham Ward in his days as a photographer.


A grieving family has paid an emotional tribute to a ‘force of nature’, who was one of the founding members of Topsham Swimming Pool.

Graham Ward, 81, died from motor neurone disease, at Langford Park Nursing Home in Exeter on December 3.

He moved to Topsham with his wife, Joan, in the 1970s and lived with his three children in High Street.

Graham, who was born in Rochdale, also lived in Clyst St George, before moving to Okehampton in 2006.

His daughter, Helene Cox, said her father was a larger-than-life character who would be deeply missed by all who knew him.

Helene, who lives in Belstone, said: “Dad was a force of nature. I think he would want to be remembered as a power for good and as one of the team which founded the Topsham pool in the 1970s and made it a reality.

“I think a lot of elderly people in Topsham will remember my father, as he was active during a lovely time when community meant everything.

“Dad first noticed the signs of motor neurone disease in 2007, but even when he was struggling to talk, he could still crack a joke. Both he and my mum were both very positive strong people, who always looked on the bright side of life.

“We remember him as a wonderful father and grandfather. He was fun, always took the family on adventures and cracked jokes.”

Around 120 people attended Graham’s funeral at Fairplace Church in Okehampton.

Graham was a very popular man, Helene said.

She continued: “Dad had many friends. He worked initially for a photography company in Exeter, before becoming a Devon County Council photographer.

“In my job working in the aviation industry, I realise how gifted a photographer he was. He had originally trained to be a commercial artist.

“He left school at 14 or 15 and self-educated. He was a gifted artist, photographer and sportsman. Dad used to swim 60 lengths in Topsham Pool; he was a fitness fanatic.”

The family also paid tribute to Langford Park Nursing Home staff in Exeter for the ‘wonderful care’ they gave to Graham.

Graham’s wife of 54 years Joan died in 2013, which was described as a ‘physical and emotional’ blow to him.

Helene said her dad took solace in visiting his ‘beloved’ Topsham once a fortnight.

Graham is survived by his daughter Helene, step-children Paul and Elizabeth, 11 grand-children and seven great-grandchildren.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Exmouth Journal. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Exmouth Journal