John Curtis obituary | Incapacity

My father, John Curtis, who died at the age of 89, lived a varied life, much of it in the public sector, and helped implement the rights of people with disabilities.

John was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, to Annie (nee Houghton) and Arthur Curtis, who ran a grocery store. He had fond memories of feeding the locals with rations in their shop in Kingsthorpe Hollow during the war years.

John attended high school in Northampton, but during World War II, at the age of 15, John literally threw away his school cap and enrolled in the Northamptonshire Regiment. He served 12 years in Germany, Trieste, Hong Kong and Korea. He was a member of the regimental band and played the tuba he had learned in the army. He later recorded some of his experiences with military bands in a book and wrote articles for the International Military Music Society.

In 1957, John joined the Public Service for the Department of Labor as a Disability Resettlement Officer. There he met his wife, Sylvia (nee Gladstone), who was also a civil servant at the Ministry, and my brother and I were born in the early 1960s. He worked in the field of employing people with disabilities for more than 20 years – a topic that excited him.

In 1996, John co-authored one of the first books on the new Disability Discrimination Act, a guide for employers to implement the new law and create a business case for employing people with disabilities. It was about the requirements of the law and how they can be turned into opportunities. He believed the legislation was long overdue.

John was always fought against injustice and discrimination. I knew that my Baptist family, who read watchers and support the work, wasn’t the norm with our neighbors, but I’m glad we were that exception.

The last 10 years of John’s career have been spent implementing the new Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) to improve professional skills and technical education. Most recently, he was Deputy Head of TVEI and Partnerships at the Ministry of Labor.

After retiring from the civil service in 1991, he was director and then assistant director at Skill: the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities for five years before becoming an appraiser and focusing on writing. He also received an MPhil in Education from the University of Sussex and graduated in 1993.

John always found time for music – he sang in various choirs and was a choirmaster and conductor. He also enjoyed watching cricket as a member of the Northamptonshire and Essex Counties clubs.

He is survived by Sylvia, her sons David and me, and grandchildren William and Alexander.

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