Obituary: Thames21 marks the death of Chris Stafford, a long-term volunteer and friend

Chris Stafford 1957-2017

With the three-week 3 Rivers Clean Up beginning this weekend across the Ravensbourne, Pool and Quaggy, catchment partnership officer Lawrence Beale-Collins mourns a well known volunteer across the area, who died at the start of May. 

It is with great sadness, and with heavy hearts, that Thames21 announces that Chris Stafford has died.

Many of you will know that Chris had been battling cancer since December last year and, after a period of respite at Butterwick Hospice in his hometown of Stockton, he passed away on the 4th of May, surrounded by his family.

Chris had been a volunteer, Event Support leader, friend, the practical chap you went to when problems arose and also an experienced guide for those new to the river environment.

When Chris retired from his computer and IT job with the Financial Times he started volunteering with the London Borough of Lewisham’s Rivers and People team, where he quickly became a regular in their weekly river habitat management events.

He then added to this with a volunteering role with river NGO Thames21 and attended sessions all along the tidal and non-tidal Thames whilst also helping out the catchment teams along the Brent, Lea and Ravensbourne.

Taking training to become an Event Support Team member, Chris mucked in and quickly developed a wide range of skills and a broad knowledge of river landscapes and the practical measures needed to improve them.

He also became a regular in the River Pool Crew, led by Vic Richardson and was Vic’s trusty sideman on many difficult restoration projects. Chris made many friends and was extremely popular.

He always had the key to get you in anywhere and the tool to do the job. He educated the Southerners within the team on Mackems and Tackems (Newcastle-Sunderland rivalry), the Sound It Out record shop in Stockton and of his diving exploits around the world.

Diving was a lasting passion for Chris and also a sport where he also made many friends. Chris was awarded, by the River Restoration Centre, the accolade of UK River Champion 2017 for his work.

During his illness everyone said “Why Chris?”, because he was fit for his age and had a very healthy lifestyle. His friends followed his treatment and, sadly, his decline, with reports from his sister Mandy back in Stockton.

When Chris passed away a number of his Thames21 colleagues attended the funeral, where they not only met his family but also his diving mates. Mandy and family, including Chris’s parents, expressed their huge gratitude for the messages and cards received throughout his illness and the flowers and tributes offered on the day.

A slideshow of Chris’s life was played throughout the after-gathering, photos of Chris from a youngster to his days in the hospice, there was always a big smile on his face and that is how we will remember him.

Should you wish to make a donation then kindly send it to: Butterwick Hospice Care, Middlefield Road, Stockton on Tees, TS19 8XN – Telephone: 01642 607742