My friend and mentor, Ossie Newell, who has died aged 85, was an engineer and businessman who, following a stroke in 1999, made a significant contribution to improving rehabilitation services nationally for stroke survivors.
I first met Ossie when he became a participant in the Getting Out of the House research study at the Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, where I am professor of stroke rehabilitation. He was keen to recover as much as possible and was a willing participant in our research studies.
His stroke had left him paralysed down the right side, leaving him unable to walk or write and affecting his speech. Through sheer determination and daily exercise he learned to walk again with a stick, to write, and eventually to draw. He recovered sufficiently to speak at conferences and to deliver lectures to students, nurses and other health professionals learning about stroke, and to sit on the board of the Nottingham NHS trust as a non-executive director.
Together, Ossie and I set up the Nottingham Stroke Research Partnership Group, a partnership between patients and researchers working to improve treatments. We co-chaired it for 10 years. In 2009, he was appointed MBE for his service to national stroke care. In 2013 he was made an honorary doctor of laws by the university. In his final years, he set up the Ossie Newell Foundation to fund multiple PhDs to research better methods of stroke recovery.
Born and brought up in West Bromwich, Oswald – Ossie for short –was the son of Francis Newell, a labourer, and his wife, Olive (nee Stanley), a factory worker. After leaving school at 16, he joined Stewarts and Lloyds steel pipe manufacturers (later part of British Steel) as a draughtsman and estimator. He studied part-time for seven years to obtain qualifications in mechanical engineering and went on to become a chartered engineer.
In 1961 he moved to the engineering firm William Press and Son. By the time it merged with the construction firm Leonard Fairclough and Son Ltd, in 1982, to form Amec, one of the top three largest construction and project management companies in the world, Ossie was managing thousands of staff. At the merger, Ossie became a director of Amec, managing 17 companies internationally. One of his many responsibilities was as acting chairman of Fisk Electric Company, based in Texas, which had the contract for electrics and instrumentation for the Apollo Mission Control Centre in Houston. In 1983 he started working as a self-employed management consultant and then retired in 1993, when he embarked on an Open University arts degree.
Ossie’s stroke at the age of 64 left him totally dependent on help to meet all his daily needs. Even as he battled with his own recovery, he was determined to make a contribution to the lives of those in a similar situation. This engendered his second career as an advocate for stroke survivors and as a passionate campaigner.
Ossie is survived by his wife, Olive (nee Fletcher), whom he married in 1958, and their children, Louise, Helen and David, and grandchildren, Sarah, Katie, Isabelle, Connie and Lottie.