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Death of Tom Gondris - the wartime refugee who saved Ipswich's heritage

PUBLISHED: 14:43 14 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:51 14 February 2019

Tom Gondris being made an MBE in 2009. He is pictured with his wife Pat and daughter Joanna. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Tom Gondris being made an MBE in 2009. He is pictured with his wife Pat and daughter Joanna. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

A leading figure in Ipswich's civic life who arrived in Britain as a nine-year-old refugee from Prague in 1939 has died a few months short of his 90th birthday.

Tom Gondris with former Ipswich mayor Ken Wilson at Curson Lodge - one of the buildings he helped restore. Picture: ARCHANTTom Gondris with former Ipswich mayor Ken Wilson at Curson Lodge - one of the buildings he helped restore. Picture: ARCHANT

Tom Gondris arrived in Britain on one of the kindertransport trains inspired by Sir Nicholas Winton during the months before the outbreak of war.

He went on to become a company chairman, an Ipswich borough councillor, the chairman of the body restoring some of the most historic buildings in the town and an MBE.

Mr Gondris arrived in Britain on the last kindertransport train from Prague. He hoped to meet up with his parents, who were travelling independently across Europe. Tragically, they were caught up in the invasion of Poland and he never saw them again.

Mr Gondris worked for a food equipment manufacturing company after doing National Service – and moved to Suffolk when it relocated to Hadleigh in the 1960s.

He and his wife Pat lived in Ipswich and was a member of the council in late 1960s and early 1970s.

He became chairman of the company before retiring in 1995 – when he took on a new mission as chairman of the Ipswich Buildings Preservation Trust and the Suffolk Architectural Preservation Trust.

In Ipswich he was behind moves to save well-known landmarks including the Old Moon and Star in Norwich Road and Curson Lodge on the junction of St Nicholas Street and Silent Street.

This Tudor building needed major restoration work before it could be brought back into use.

Mr Gondris leaves a widow Pat and daughter Joanna, who said he would be fondly missed by many people.

She said: “My father was a committed member of the Suffolk Preservation Society and the Ipswich Society and he was crucial to the formation of the Suffolk Architectural Heritage Trust and the Ipswich Building Trust – for which he worked tirelessly.

“He was also the chairman of the River Action Group. Importantly, he was a highly skilled securer of funding for these causes in which he believed so much.

“In the last years of his life he faced serious illness with cheerful acceptance and immense gratitude for all the tender care given to him by his wife, his family and his carers.”

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