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Ron, community garden’s ‘heart and soul’

24 May, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Ron Barrow: ‘His spirit will always be here’

RON Barrow, who dedicated more than 30 years of his life to a community garden, died last month, aged 76.

He is remembered by staff members and trustees of Sunnnyside Community Gardens, in Hazellville Road, Upper Holloway, for his positive attitude when visiting the garden sporting his red Arsenal cap. He was its “heart and soul”.

Garden manager Anna Portch said: “It is amazing how someone with a profound disability could have such a massive impact on the world, despite all the things he couldn’t do. He could still bring so much joy and positivity.

“He was the longest-standing member of Sunnyside. People from the community would pop in to see him.”

She added: “He had a great sense of humour He would bring so much positivity, which takes strength of mind to do that when things are so limited. He was the heart and soul of Sunnyside. We used to call him ‘the Captain’.”

Ron, who was a wheelchair user and non-verbal, had been living since 2006 in Cutbush House, a sheltered housing block in Hilldrop Road. He visited the garden on Mondays and Tuesdays, becoming a trustee when it became a charity in 1992.

“He would tell Cutbush that he was going to work when he was coming to us,” said Anna. “He contributed so much. He was very good at encouraging others and was always inspecting everyone’s work and checking it was up to standard. He would keep others on their toes, making sure everything gets done.

“He would even call us up on the days he wasn’t here and make sure we were getting onto it.”

Thirty years ago Ron built a circular-shaped mosaic garden wall, which stands today. He tended to plants and enjoyed painting brightly-coloured circles and shapes.

Denise Mulcare, who worked with Ron at Sunnyside for five years, said: “He was so caring and creative. He was so open, he loved music like Bob Marley and loved listening to stories. He always wanted to do something creative.”

Denise, an adult therapeutic worker, went to Ron’s home to learn Makaton, a way of communication through signs and symbols. “Even though he couldn’t use speech somehow we were always in sync,” she said.

“He was so engaging and eager for people to learn. He was such a beautiful person. His disability never stopped him coming forward.

“He taught people to be humanitarian. He put people first. He will be missed but his spirit will always be here.”

Sunnyside plans to plant something “special” in Ron’s memory. “We will be carrying on his work – all the things he was telling us to do,” said Anna.

He died on April 8 and his funeral took place at Islington Crematorium on May 14.


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