I first met Gus over 20 years ago when I started re-attending the Birmingham mini meetings, then held at St Laurence's Pastoral Centre in Northfield Birmingham, after an origami sabbatical of about 8 years. The only person I knew at the meeting was Peter McKeown who had contacted me and suggested I attend.
Gus had discovered origami after retiring from his work as a manager with a water treatment company. It seems strange now but much of Gus's pre-retirement was occupied with rugby, rugby, rugby, family and work. He was a co-founder of Redditch Rugby Club and captained the team for a time. When he embraced retirement he moved on from the macho physical rugby playing and discovered poetry, rambling, church history, steam engines and of course origami. He had always been and remained an avid reader and collector of books and maps and it was a library book that caught his eye and started his origami passion.
The mini meeting group was very friendly and welcoming and I immediately felt at home. It was at one of those early meetings that Gus suggested we enter a Christmas tree competition held each year at Bidford Upon Avon's at (coincidentally) St Lawrence's Church. As I got to know Gus over the years I was to discover that he had a passion for church architecture and history and even organised regular group visits to churches. It's difficult to think of research without the internet these days but Gus did all of his without the use of technology relying instead on library sources.
We made a tree based on a design by Max Hulme some 2.5 metres high using photographic backdrop paper and decorated it with hundreds of origami stars, geometric folds and other models. We were very pleased with our entry and it stood out from the rest being entirely handmade and an original concept. Gus and I attended the church at weekends in the lead up to Christmas and complimented our display by demonstrations and teaching. We were awarded 2nd place to the Women's Institute. Their tree was pretty but traditional. Not to be put off we entered again the following year. Did we win? - nope - second to the WI again! Friends in high places we concluded.
The Birmingham meeting moved on from the pastoral centre to its current location in Bournville in the mid 90's. Gus looked forward to and rarely missed a meeting. He was not creative but we encouraged him as he gained confidence in teaching. He loved geometric and folds with a mathematical twist. He enthusiastically helped at Birmingham conventions assuming the very important role of paper administrator. This job is crucial to the smooth running of any convention and without it delays and inefficiencies are inevitable.
At our April 2012 meeting Gus had just told us of a new book on paper craft he had discovered at his library and read from it a short section on box pleating which credited Neal Elias and Max Hulme as pioneers of the technique. He then distributed A4 paper cut from ordinance survey maps with a view to teaching us the Miura-Ori map fold, a way of folding a map so that it may be opened in one movement (see BOS website http://www.britishorigami.info/academic/miura.php ). A couple of folds in Gus suffered a cardiac arrest from which he recovered but later suffered complications whilst still in hospital.
Gus was always up for helping out at origami events and demonstrations. The Rupert AGM at Warwick one such regular demo which we have done for many years along with other Birmingham mini meeting attendees. I have wonderful memories of Gus teaching Rupert Bear.
Gus formed a walking group and planned and led monthly walks. Lynn, my wife and I joined his group shortly after we retired last year where we learned that he had organised 314 such walks. Each year he made an origami model for every member of his walking group as a Christmas gift. At the memorial service the BOS were well represented with 10 of us attending.
I sadly have attended quite a few such events for origami friends over the years but Gus's was the first I have ever attended where there was an origami tribute in the programme and we are invited to bring models to the front while the choir sang one of his favourite poems. Mark Bolitho contributed on behalf of the BOS with his origami floral bouquet similar to the one shown in our 2012 calendar, Dave King and I made a rose bowl with a lily decorated plinth, Mick Guy made a hat depicting the flag of Cornwall where Gus was born and Peter and Margaret Borcherds laid a selection of Peters geometric/abstract origami which Gus greatly admired. Darren, Gus's grandson also folded and placed some lovely models.
Gus will be dearly missed by the Birmingham origami crowd and as Nick Robinson once put it's members like Gus put the society into the BOS.
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