Ford Park cemetery campaigner to retire
A LONG-STANDING charity leader who campaigned tirelessly to save an historic city cemetery is to stand down on Monday.
Dr Henry Will MBE is to retire as chairman of the Ford Park Cemetery Trust after 13 years spent dedicated to helping to bring the Victorian site back to life.
Dr Will's role will be taken by John Boon, a naturalist and former Superintendent Registrar of Plymouth, who has been a trustee at the cemetery for several years.
Dr Will played a pivotal role in launching the charitable organisation in 1999.
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The 34-acre cemetery, where dozens of notable Plymothians are buried, was at the time facing the threat of closure.
Having become three-quarters overgrown and falling into liquidation, there were fears it would be closed for good and the land split up and sold off.
But the Trust took over running the site in 2000 and volunteers gradually restored the Peverell landmark.
In 2008, The Herald backed a huge appeal for public funding, needed to unlock nearly £500,000 in Heritage Lottery Fund cash.
After a remarkable response from city people, who dipped into their pockets to the tune of £60,000, the Trust was able to restore its Grade II-listed Victorian chapel.
Dr Will also oversaw the unveiling of a heritage and education centre – and Plymouth's first memorial to the city's Second World War civilian casualties.
The memorial bears the painstakingly-researched names and details of the 1,250 city people known to have been killed during Nazi bombing, around a quarter of whom are buried at Ford Park.
Dr Will was handed an MBE in The Queen's New Year's Honours List in 2009 in recognition of his voluntary service to the charity – and instantly dedicated the honour to his fellow volunteers.
The 82-year-old said he had decided to retire at the end of 2012.
"For myself I have achieved all the goals I set myself," Dr Will said.
"It is now time for a new face, new ideas and fresh energy.
"I am confident that under John's leadership the Trust will go from strength to strength.
"He will be greatly assisted, as I have been, by the talent and commitment of those associated with Ford Park.
"It has been a privilege for me to have worked with them."
Speaking about Mr Boon's appointment, Dr Will added: "A talented amateur naturalist, John has done much to interpret the wildlife of the cemetery to the community.
"The success of our visitor centre is in large measure due to his and his wife Jane's organisational skill.
"He is respected and admired throughout the Trust."