Tributes paid to talented organist

TALENTED: John Ross at the organ in 2011.
TALENTED: John Ross at the organ in 2011.
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A TALENTED organist who played for thousands of people at church services, weddings and funerals for almost seven decades has died.

Born-and-bred Hartlepool man John Craig Ross passed away at the grand old age of 92 in the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Today his family paid tribute to the much-loved dad-of-two describing him as a “an excellent role model and an inspiration to others”.

John was best known for his talents at the organ inside St George’s United Reformed Church, in Park Road, where he played for almost 67 years.

The loving grandfather was also a piano teacher in town, with many of his pupils going on to become professional musicians. He gave his last lesson to his great-niece Emily Rodgers, 14, less than a week before he died. Today his son, Nigel Ross, 57, a university lecturer in Milan, Italy, told the Mail: “Our dad was also a loving and attentive father and grandfather, with a veiled, but slightly devilish sense of humour.

“He was an excellent role model. He will be truly missed by so many people for his quiet good-mannered nature, his unassuming helpfulness and kindness to others, his attention to detail and his inspiration to others in the field of music.

“He was in excellent health until his 91st year, and he was so proud to have celebrated his diamond wedding anniversary with our mum in 2011. His health declined only very recently, and he can truly be said to have lived his life to the full.”

John was born in West Hartlepool on September 4, 1920, and lived all his life in the town. After leaving school at 14, he first worked at the Hartlepool Water Company, and later – and for most of his working life – at the Expanded Metal Company, carrying out various administrative duties.

He “excelled” as a piano student from an early age, and he was awarded his piano diploma at 20-years-old, becoming an Associate of the London College of Music.

He also soon became a very proficient organist, originally playing at the Wesley Methodist Church, in Wesley Square.

During the Second World War, he enlisted in the Navy, serving as a petty officer, based mainly in Lowestoft and Gibraltar, and even during the war years, played the organ regularly at various churches, including the Gibraltar Methodist Chapel.

He was a founding member of the Gibraltar Club for Methodist servicemen, and since the end of the war, the club – of which he was honorary president – has continued to have annual reunions, which he attended up until last year where he was the only surviving original member in attendance.

In 1946 he began his duties as organist and choirmaster at St George’s Church, where he met and later married Connie Rodgers, now 87, a retired bookeeper. He played for up to 50 weeks a year at St George’s, up until less than a year ago when he had to step down due to failing eyesight.

Over the years, together with his wife, John, an honorary member of the Hartlepool Music Society, arranged various fundraising events for the upkeep of the St George’s Church organ.

John – who died on March 7 and whose funeral took place in St George’s on Friday, March 15 – leaves behind Connie, Nigel, and daughter Julia De Burgh, 52, a teacher in Southend-on-Sea, and four treasured grandchildren Paula, 26, William, 22, and 20-year-old twins, Elizabeth and Jane, who are all Julia’s children.