Charles Waite 1919 -2009
Reprinted from Saffron Walden Historical Journal No 19 Spring 2010
Charles Waite, who died on 3 December 2009 at the age of 90, was Chairman of the Saffron Walden Historical Society for twelve years from 1987 to 1999. When he retired as Chairman, he was made an Honorary Vice-President of the Society in recognition of all his services to it.
Charles was born and grew up in North London, raised by his mother and other female relations, as his father had died before his birth in the influenza epidemic of 1919. Charles went to art college at the age of 16 and then served in the army for the duration of the Second World War. At the end of the war he decided to train as a teacher, since that offered the opportunity of more secure employment than a career as an artist.
By this time he had met and married his wife, Sylvia, who was also a teacher. He taught art at a large school in Enfield, Middlesex, becoming Head of Art and eventually Head of Upper School. In the course of his teaching career he also became extremely proficient in several crafts which he was required to teach, such as book-binding, pottery and weaving.
Charles and Sylvia moved to Saffron Walden in 1980 on their retirement and soon became involved in the Historical Society. Charles had a great interest in history, as well as in family history and he soon became a member of the committee. Amongst other things he worked on the town census records, comparing Church Street and Castle Street in 1841 and 1851.
He took over the role of Chairman in 1987 from Tim Pratt. He was always a most charming and welcoming chairman and he presided graciously at meetings, often entertaining members with talks at AGMs about his own research into his family. He had a delightful sense of humour, particularly evident at committee meetings and a great ability to get on with people. After he retired as chairman, he worked with his successor, Michael Swindlehurst to revise the constitution of the Society, on which he had very definite views.
Although in recent years Charles was too frail to attend meetings, he retained a keen interest in the Society and in the Journal. We extend our sympathy at his death to his wife Sylvia and daughter Julia and to their family.