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Tributes after death of man who devoted his life to helping adults with learning difficulties

PUBLISHED: 13:38 24 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:20 24 December 2017

Onward Enterprises founder Peter Sindall with his wife Marjorie, left, and daughter Rachel Allum-Sindall in the background. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Onward Enterprises founder Peter Sindall with his wife Marjorie, left, and daughter Rachel Allum-Sindall in the background. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Archant

Heartfelt tributes have flooded in for an inspirational and charismatic man who devoted his life to helping people with learning difficulties reach their full potential.

Peter and Margery Sindall pictured at Onward Enterprises' 25th anniversary. Picture: SONYA DUNCANPeter and Margery Sindall pictured at Onward Enterprises' 25th anniversary. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Peter Sindall - who has died aged 77 - became well-known throughout South Norfolk, first as manager of the Attleborough adult training centre and then as founder of Onward Enterprises, a social enterprise giving people with learning disabilities a realistic working environment.

In nearly 50 years of working with adults with special needs - which resulted in him being made an MBE in 2008 - he earned the respect of families and the community for his “charismatic, enthusiastic, driven character”, which made a difference to a huge number of lives.

“His mantra was to give people the ability to do the best they can,” said his daughter Rachel Allum-Sindall, who followed her father into Onward Enterprises and is today its managing director.

“Our job was to give those people those opportunities and do our bit to show what they can achieve.”

Peter Sindall with his wife Marjorie. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHPeter Sindall with his wife Marjorie. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, Mr Sindall joined the family firm R J Sindalls and Sons and trained as a carpenter.

Even then he showed a talent for managing and organising things and over the years became known for organising everything from the annual Onward Enterprises pantomime, South Norfolk and Breckland military tattoos and annual football matches to name a few.

He found his true calling when he began to work with adult training centres during the late 1960s.

He was offered the role of manager at the newly-built Attleborough adult training centre in 1971, when he was aged just 27.

Peter and Margery Sindall with their daughter Rachel Allum-Sindall pictured at Onward Enterprises' 25th anniversary. Picture: SONYA DUNCANPeter and Margery Sindall with their daughter Rachel Allum-Sindall pictured at Onward Enterprises' 25th anniversary. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Mr Sindall stayed in that role for 16 years, becoming leader of a team of Norfolk County Council social workers based in Norwich in 1988.

“He recognised that everyone at the training centres really wanted to work, wanted housing, wanted relationships and to be like their mums, dads, brothers and sisters,” said Mrs Allum-Sindall.

So he agreed to take early retirement from the council to set up a not-for-profit organisation which would give people a realistic working environment.

Onward Enterprises started with just nine people in Harleston in 1990, with a second base being set up in Thetford two years later.

Peter Sindall. Picture: COURTESY OF SINDALL FAMILYPeter Sindall. Picture: COURTESY OF SINDALL FAMILY

Both branches now support more than 180 people.

“It was a big leap but it was his name and reputation which encouraged people to come to us,” said Mrs Allum-Sindall.

“This was dad’s vocation and we followed him.

“Behind every great man, there’s a great woman and he had a very supportive wife.

Peter Sindall with his wife Margery after being made an MBE. Picture: COURTESY OF SINDALL FAMILYPeter Sindall with his wife Margery after being made an MBE. Picture: COURTESY OF SINDALL FAMILY

“He afforded his family lots and lots of opportunities but he couldn’t have achieved this without all the support he got.”

Mr Sindall, who lived with his wife Margery in Old Buckenham, died on December 3 after suffering a stroke and developing pneumonia.

He leaves behind children Kelvin, Ruth and Rachel, as well as grandchildren Dominic, Sophie, Adam and Gabriel.

A funeral service was held at Earlham Crematorim on Thursday, December 21, with a thanksgiving service at All Saints Church in Old Buckenham shortly afterwards.

Peter Sindall. Picture: COURTESY OF SINDALL FAMILYPeter Sindall. Picture: COURTESY OF SINDALL FAMILY

“He very much thought of people as his friends,” said Mrs Allum-Sindall.

“He really did speak to people and treat them equally. He had a brilliant sense of humour and diffused all sorts of issues by humour.

“He related to people and had huge warmth.

“As a family we’ve received massive amounts of beautiful cards. They’ve written lots of fantastic things, such as inspirational.”

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