Obituary – Geoffrey Atkinson OBE, former CEO of Ben

4.01.39 TO 14.01.20

Geoffrey Atkinson OBE, former Chief Executive of Ben, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his wife and family after a very short illness. He had been the victim of Alzheimers for a number of years and his immune system was compromised by the illness, it was, therefore, not possible for him to survive a chest infection which weakened him.  

Geoffrey had the most varied career during his working life, starting off after school with the Northern Drama School where one of his first roles was in the York Mystery Plays with Dame Judi Dench. He then spent several years treading the boards, in children’s theatre and in weekly rep. He had a part in the Mousetrap when it was first on the London Stage and then went into TV with parts in Emergency Ward 10 and the Army Game. Acting was his first love but he made the decision to hand in his Equity Card when his first wife Ann became pregnant.

Realising he needed to start earning regular money he went to work for Heinz and after a time in production he then went on to become part of the sales team. From there Geoffrey moved to the oil industry and worked for Texaco. So disgusted was he at the treatment of petrol site tenants that he decided to start up a Trade Association – The Petrol Retailers Association – in conjunction with a like minded gentleman called Les Ward.

He certainly made his mark in this sector and organised a mass rally of petrol tankers to storm into London and present a petition to the government. So successful was this that, along with others, his involvement finally saw the introduction of government legislation to finally outlaw the restrictive trade practices of the major fuel retailers.

The PRA was then absorbed into the Motor Agents Association (now the Retail Motor Industry Federation) and following a year with the organisation he was approached to become the CEO of Ben.

It was his career with Ben which marked him out for the exceptional person he was, compassionate, caring and above all generous with his time for staff and beneficiaries alike. Geoffrey was Chief Executive of Ben for 25 years, from 1978 until he retired at the age of 65 in 2004. He was instrumental in developing and implementing Ben’s first five year plan in 1978, which achieved its ambitious objectives of developing new sheltered housing; building a new nursing and residential complex; building a special unit for people with dementia and achieving an income of £1.5m by 1983.

Geoffrey was responsible for the acquisition and subsequent conversion of Alexandra House in Southport into a care centre in 1979 and the building of Town Thorns Care Centre and sheltered housing provision in the midlands, which opened in 1981. Additionally, in 1997, he led the charity in opening its Day Care Centre, which provides day care for older people and those living with dementia. 

Each month he took a trip around the country to visit the four centres and this was so valuable to staff and residents who were able to chat to him about any concerns or worries. His leadership proved to be invaluable when the 1990 recession hit and he persuaded each member of staff to take a 5% pay cut for the charity to continue running, led by himself and also to volunteer to give 5 hours each week in the centres.

For his work, he was awarded an OBE in 2000, a well deserved recognition of his contribution to so many fields of endeavour, he made a significant difference to the lives of so many people. Even after retirement he continued to be part of several organisations, supporting them as much as possible – The Fellowship of the Motor Industry, the Motoring Guild of Advertisers and also a group called the Garrison Players – during his retirement years he was able to get back to his first love and become a leading light in the amateur dramatic groups locally.

Also retaining his commitment to Ben during retirement, Geoffrey and his wife, Tina Steele, Ben’s former Fundraising Director, took part in a skydive in 2009 to raise money for the charity, jumping out of a plane at 15,000ft. They raised £16,000.

Geoffrey’s funeral takes place on the 14th February 2020 at 12noon. For details, please contact Geoffrey’s wife, Tina: In addition to his wife Tina, Geoffrey leaves three children, Kate, Tim and Mike, step daughter Kirsty and nine grandchildren.

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