Obituary: Dedicated and enigmatic scientist, 82, remembered for Lion work

A dedicated Lion: Dr John Jones (left) has died aged 82. Here is pictured with Joe Stirling (right)

A dedicated Lion: Dr John Jones , left, has died aged 82. Here he is pictured with Joe Stirling - Credit: Archant

A highly-regarded scientist who dedicated his adult life to helping others, while remaining a mystery to those who knew him, has died aged 82. 

As well as being a devoted Lions Club member, John Jones, of Norwich, became a recognised force within the bioscience industry. 

His work included co-authoring many scientific papers with established colleagues as well as being involved in the process relating to the detection of Rhesus antibodies in pregnant women. 

And despite all of Dr Jones’ successes, as an individual, he became something of an enigma. 

John Michael Jones was born in 1939 in the Worcestershire town of Redditch, south of Birmingham. 

As a youngster, he wanted to be a vet and after the Second World War, while he was still at school, he spent a lot of time travelling to a nearby farm and helping with the animals.

He spent the rest of his school life in the County School at Redditch and then, in 1955, tragedy struck when his mother died after choking on a bite of an apple. John was just 16 at the time. Despite the shock, he went on to achieve great results in sixth form before being offered a place in the biosciences department at Birmingham University. 

Dr John Jones second from the left

Michael Dixon handing a cheque of £500 to the City of Norwich Lions Cub to Hilary of Norwich and District Victims Support. Also pictured, from left, are Jack Peek, Dr John Jones, Ryan Vicoerlrichs, and Mike Dixon - Credit: Archant

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During his seven years at university, he gained a PhD in bioscience and met his life-long friend, a Dundee native, Chris Maddocks. They were both on the same course and they spent most of their university life together. John became godfather to his son, Andrew, who was born after Chris married a fellow university graduate that they had both befriended. 

After university, he joined the Lister Institute in Chelsea and spent a number of years working on international activities. He was involved in co-publishing a number of papers there and would go on to publish more during his time in Norwich. 

His friend, Howard Zelley, who spoke at his funeral, said he had tracked down 12 of those papers co-authored with three world-renowned scientists. 

He said: "He was much higher up the food chain than we ever realised because he never talked about his work in detail; he told us he was doing papers and research work, but we never knew exactly what it was.   

“The first one was in 1966 and the abstract ran to about 18 lines of close-spaced wording. I read the first three words and then I was totally lost.” 

John moved to the Food Research Institute in Colney Lane and in 1973 he joined the Norwich Lions Club – a move that became his life's work outside of the science community. 

Helping others: Dr John Jones (left) presenting a cheque to James Bigg (centre) with Joe Stirling (right)

Helping others: Dr John Jones, left, presenting a cheque to James Bigg, centre, with Joe Stirling - Credit: Archant

Several years later, individuals at the Food Research Institute wanted John to move to Bristol, which he refused flatly to move and instead stayed in Norwich. He began working on individual research commissions for varying people, both at the Lister Institute and the University of Birmingham.

Mr Zelley added: “John was a very private person and I’m almost certain that very few people knew exactly what he did do in his life, outside of Lionism. 

“Behind the image, he was a private man and rarely talked about friends and family, and if he did, he never gave a name. That’s why we always knew his neighbours, but we didn’t know their names. 

“He won’t be forgotten very quickly.” 

Roy Woodhouse, of the Lions, first met Mr Jones 50 years ago when they belonged to a small club in St Giles. 

He described learning more about John following his death than he had done in half a century. 

"He always kept everything very quiet,” he said. "Once in the Norwich Lions, he worked very hard, showed what it was all about, and quietly portrayed that great sense of humour that he had under the quiet look on his face. 

“He never suffered fools gladly and he was not afraid to express what he felt, but that was John and that was how he did things.” 

During his time with the Lions, he undertook a variety of activities, including visits to America both when he was on the cabinet as the then zone chairman and in late years, running the youth award, and becoming a governor in 1983. 

Mr Woodhouse added: “If you ever look in the directory, you would find that he did almost everything in the City of Norwich Lions. If you look under ‘secretary’, there he was. If you look under ‘treasurer’, there he was. He kept going. 

“He was a great man. Lions changed his life, and he did a tremendous amount of good with all that he has done."

A lifelong bachelor, John leaves behind many treasured friends and colleagues, as well as his sole surviving relative, cousin Margaret. 

He died at home on February 10. His funeral took place at Earlham Crematorium on March 24 and donations were collected for the City of Norwich Lions Club in aid of the Ukraine Relief Fund via allcockfunerals.co.uk.