A ‘TRUE gentleman’ whose charity reunited 127 war children with their Canadian families has died after a battle with cancer.
Chris Vowles, 68, set up Worthing charity Canadian Roots in 2008 after a lifelong search for his own father – a serviceman who was billeted at the bottom of Grand Avenue in 1945.
He died at home last Saturday, nearly a year after being diagnosed with melanoma.
Paying tribute to him, his wife Pam, 62, who he married on August 29 after he was told his cancer was terminal, said: “Chris was a man who could talk about anything. You only had to say the simplest thing and he would know chapter and verse about it.
“He took an interest in everything from politics to news and could always discuss things.
“He always wanted to help everyone.”
Chris was orphaned at birth and adopted by his auntie, spending much of his childhood with his cousins.
He grew up in Worthing, which he always said was the ‘best place’ to live.
He spent most of the 60s in the merchant navy but always longed to return to Worthing.
Pam said: “His childhood was a happy one and instigated his love of Worthing, which he always said was the best place that any child could have been brought up in.”
Returning to Worthing in the mid-70s, Chris opened several businesses, including a manufacturing company, producing bespoke wine racks, used by the likes of Elton John and the wine bar in EastEnders.
He was also a ‘gadget man’, filming the town’s major events to produce the Year in the Life of Worthing DVDs.
But one unanswered question in his life continued to trouble him – who was his father? He tirelessly sought an answer, working with the Project Roots organisation, who could not trace his father.
He set up Canadian Roots, helping those in a similar position whose fathers were based in the country during the war.
Pam said: “He found a company in America who trace family through DNA and he found his line goes back to the Scottish borders and the family name would have been Irvine.
“He has happily reunited 127 UK war children with their Canadian families.
“I will be keeping the charity going in his memory. I will make sure of that.”
Major Tom Wye, who worked with the couple to install a memorial to commemorate Canadian servicemen on Worthing seafront in 2013, said Chris was well-loved in the town.
He said: “He was a wonderful person and a true gentleman. He was such a nice person and may he rest in peace.”
When Chris discovered his cancer was terminal, he planned his funeral, the details of which are yet to be confirmed.
Pam urged anyone who has any changes in moles on their skin to seek urgent medical attention.
She said: “It hit us very quickly and we didn’t realise how dangerous and devastating it is. If you notice any changes, don’t leave it. It’s a real killer disease.”
For more information about melanoma, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/Malignant-melanoma