Father of six, Joe Crook, who has died at the age of 93 was a former Marlborough fire fighter who attended some of the town’s biggest blazes including the fire in 1966 that reduced the Polly Tea Rooms to a single storey.
Ronald Victor Crook — who was always known by his childhood nickname of Joe — lived in Cherry Orchard in Marlborough where he spent the majority of his life.
His family moved to the estate when he was 11 years old and latter to the former Sebastopol Square – where ATS Euro Tyres is today – but he later returned to Cherry Orchard after marrying.
He was born on February 11 1920, the second oldest of five children and the last one surviving.
Mr Crook went to St Peter’s Boys School before winning a scholarship to Marlborough Grammar School.
On leaving school he worked for a period as an assistant to the professional Cyril Brooke at Marlborough Golf Club.
Then he went to work at Sunnyhill Farm at Oare but with World War 2 looming Mr Crook joined the Territorial Army and in September the same year, 1939, he was called up into the Wiltshire Regiment.
He was never sent into the battlefields of Europe and instead was posted to India where thousands of British troops were on the ready in case they were needed for the war against the Japanese.
Mr Crook’s unit was sent to several different Indian cities and he later loved to regale his family, said elder son Bob, with tales of his experiences on the sub-continent. He caught Malaria four times which kept him from active service.
After being demobbed Mr Crook went into the building trade and worked for a number of local building companies but in 1975 he became self-employed as a bricklayer.
At one stage he was employed as a maintenance man at Pelham Puppets, the former Marlborough factory that exported millions of puppets all over the world. He also worked for a while on the maintenance team at Marlborough College.
One job he was particularly proud of was helping build the wall at the Salisbury Road entrance to the Recreation Ground to commemorate the Coronation in 1953.
Mr Crook met his wife Queenie, who died in 1998, at a dance in the Town Hall and they made their home in Cherry Orchard where they raised their family of six.
After his demob from the Army Mr Crook joined the former National Fire Service – later to become the Wiltshire Fire Brigade – and as a retained fire fighter for almost three decades was involved in tackling many of the big fires that have dogged the town over the years.
He loved darts and was chairman of the Marlborough Darts League for some years, and he was a member of the town’s two RAOB lodges.
In recent years, said son Bob, old age took an increasing hold on Mr Crook and he needed carers at his home before finally he was moved to Aldbourne Nursing Home where he died on Boxing Day.
In lieu of flowers at his cremation his family asked for donations to the Jubilee Centre.