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Former KES pupil and Old Lennensian becomes a centurion

todayFebruary 16, 2021 16

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An online toast on Zoom and a specially-made video message made a former KES pupil’s 100th birthday even more special.

Frank Tuffs, who attended KES between 1932 and 1937, is the only current centenarian of the Old Lennensians Association (OLA) – a group that has enjoyed a relationship with the Grammar School since 1906.

The sprightly centurion, who received lots of cards and messages to mark the milestone, was treated to a special online toast by the OLA before being being presented by a video from KES principal Sarah Hartshorn.

Frank Tuffs, who turned 100 last Friday, at the KES gate back in 2015. (44447265)
Frank Tuffs, who turned 100 last Friday, at the KES gate back in 2015. (44447265)

Mrs Hartshorne was contacted by Frank’s daughter, Kathy Fidgeon, to see if the school were able to do something for his special day last Friday.

She said: “I joined in with the toast to Frank and showed him the video message from the school. It was such a lovely thing to do.

“He was overwhelmed with all of the cards and messages, everyone has been really fantastic.”

Andrew Stephen, OLA chairman, said: “In addition to sending Frank a card, I had great pleasure in informing him that he has been made an honorary member of the Old Lennensians.

“I am assured that his daughter will keep him up to date with via the website and the newsletter.”

Sharing the same birth year as Prince Philip and the actor Charles Bronson, Frank was born in Edinburgh while his parents were on holiday.

As a child he was brought up at first in Hampshire until his parents moved to Norfolk when his father, Robert, became Head Gamekeeper at Houghton Hall.

Frank attended the village school in Great Bircham before winning a scholarship to attend KES.

Later, the family moved back to Hampshire and Frank began his working career as a clerk for Southern Railways.

On the outbreak of World War II he joined the Home Guard as he was in a reserved occupation, until he was called up into the RAF in 1941.

He trained as an aircraft electrician and was posted to a number of RAF bases in the UK, including RAF Odiham, before being posted to Belgium in late 1944.

As a young man, Frank had enjoyed sports, particularly hockey. He and his wife, Maureen, were also founding members of the Oakley Bowling Club, near Basingstoke, before he later served as its president.

He continued to be an active member and player at the club before the coronavirus pandemic and, despite failing eyesight, hopes to return to the greens later this year.

In 2015, Frank and his daughter Kathy paid a visit to the school – a trip they would like to repeat once the pandemic has ended – which stirred up many memories.

The OLA has had an association since the Grammar School moved to Gaywood in 1906. It almost folded two years ago but a new committee have transformed its fortunes.

Mr Stephen added: “We exist partly for reasons of nostalgia but our prime purpose is to support the current school with which we have an excellent relationship.

“They, like us, have a profound respect for the fine traditions of the school. The Old Lennensians were, for a long time, an exclusively ex Grammar School boys group but we have succeeded in attracting and enrolling both girls and boys from much more recent times.

“Everyone who goes to KES should be proud to be an Old Lennensian. We are and I know that Frank Tuffs is.”

The group, which boasts a membership of more than 300 ex-pupils, currently has 25 members living oversees, in 11 different countries, spanning four continents.

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