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John Sargent 1919 - 2021

John Sargent - 1919 - 2021

It is with sadness that we report the passing of founder member and Life president of Heart of England Organic Group, John Sargent, who died peacefully at home at the end of September, just a few days short of his 102nd birthday.

John was born in 1919 near Hungerford on the Wiltshire-Berkshire border, and he claimed he was taught to grow food by his grandfather while still at school.

Moving to Coventry at the age of 14 he started working in the Rootes car factory as an apprentice toolmaker, while studying engineering drawing and mathematics at Coventry Technical College.

Joining the St John Ambulance Association when he was 16 years old, he was 20 when the war started and, in addition to his day job in the factory, he drove ambulances in Coventry at night during the war years. After the war he worked full time on the ambulances working for the Hospital Saturday Fund, where he was also responsible for vehicle repair.

During the war John met his wife-to-be Vera, who was a nurse, and from 1952 to 1973 John and Vera ran a grocery shop in Humber Avenue in Coventry. They moved to a smallholding in Corley Moor in 1954 where land was impoverished after the war. John got it back into production with tons of pig manure, growing fruit and vegetables to supply the shop.

John became an associate member of the Soil Association in 1948 following an encounter at the Kenilworth Flower and Vegetable show at Stoneleigh. In subsequent years John helped on the stall there and corresponded with Soil Association founder, Eve Balfour, though they never met. When the Henry Doubleday Research Association was started by Lawrence D. Hills, John left the Soil Association and joined HDRA in 1956, as he saw it as more focussed on gardening.

John Sargent at Ryton Gardens
John was a guide at Ryton Organic Gardens for over 30 years

The shop closed due to redevelopment in 1973 and the following year saw John doing first aid training in the medical centre of the colliery at Keresley, staying until the mine closed down in 1983 when he then retired. He continued to drive ambulances in his spare time and worked a total of 55 years for St John Ambulance as a trainer and a volunteer.

When HDRA relocated from Bocking in Essex to Ryton in 1985 John met kindred spirits Lawrence and Cherry Hills and he fondly remembered Lawrence standing on a bale of straw to give a talk in the then bare site. After Ryton Gardens opened to the public in June 1986 John became a volunteer guide which he continued to do for more than 30 years into his late 90's. He was a life member of Garden Organic, a member of the Heritage Seed Library and a founder member and President of the Heart of England Organic Group.

John's Tips for successful organic growing

From 2017 Diana Sandercock spent many hours with John, conscientiously collecting and writing down his lifetime of gardening knowledge so that it would not be lost for future generations of gardeners. This collection was published by Heart of England Organic Group as "John's Tips for Successful Organic Growing" in time for his 100th Birthday and can be purchased from the HEOG website, price £5 plus p&p.

Heart of England Organic Group
6 Waverley Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1JN
Tel. 01926 852135 email: ¨info@heog.org.uk¨

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