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Obituaries: Mervyn Kohler and Phil Rossall
Long-term campaigners for older people will have been deeply saddened by the recent deaths of two great servants of the age sector: Mervyn Kohler and Phil Rossall. In their very different ways they contributed hugely to effective campaigning by Help the Aged, and then Age UK, which saw older people’s interests advance even in difficult times.

In his 35 years’ service Mervyn became the BSG equivalent of a household name.  His sonorous voice and original choice of words brought to life media coverage of complex and inaccessible subjects from Pension Credit to long-term care entitlements.  Mervyn wasn’t faint-hearted: never daunted by a debate with a Secretary of State, and always preferring the spark of a live interview to more stilted formats. With a remarkable grasp of data he inspired all with whom he worked.  Mervyn’s knowledge was vast and wide-ranging. On one of his many journeys to Brussels to campaign for older people, a long Eurostar delay simply allowed him more time to opine expertly to me on a dazzling range of issues, from railway engineering to 19th century German politics.

Phil Rossall’s legacy is no less profound in building the foundations of evidence as the platform to campaigning.  He epitomised BSG values of rigour and care, underpinned by a deep commitment to social justice and equal participation. “Passionate scholarship” indeed. A succession of influential reports by Help the Aged and Age UK leaned heavily on his meticulous attention to detail.  With quiet authority he ensured that policy and advocacy followed accurately the crafted work of researchers. He helped ensure the statistics had meaning and reached a wide audience - typified by his high-profile state of the nation ‘Spotlight’ reports.  Increasingly he influenced our big thinking, for example in developing the Age UK index of well-being and in helping the emerging Campaign to End Loneliness ground its calls to action in evidence. Above all he was a team-player, helping his colleagues to excel; many years as a teacher had made him ever more generous-hearted and encouraging, leaving behind a generation of colleagues and friends who are better for having known and worked with him. His positive spirit persisted throughout his illness, as he produced countless witty and fascinating blogs and You-Tube videos in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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