Bob Grose’s Obituary

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The job they do and the life they lead are ideally compatible for certain individuals.

One of those people was my friend and colleague, Bob Grose, who passed away at the age of 71. He has done historically important work for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa on HIV/AIDS, and for the Overseas Development Administration (ODA, later DfID) in India on polio, HIV and leprosy. In the mid-1980s, writing for War on Want, Bob was one of the first to forecast that truckers would pose a high risk to Africa’s HIV epidemic. He was soon hired by the WHO Global Aids Programme (later UNAids) in Geneva, where from 1987 to 1992 he served as a technical advisor. He was ahead of his time, mobilizing African community organizations to raise awareness of the epidemic: a UNAIDS priority to this day. He oversaw several major projects as senior health and population advisor to ODA (1992-99): polio eradication (vaccinating more than 100 million children per year on a single day), the launch of India’s campaign to tackle the HIV epidemic, and the elimination of leprosy.

All these tales have happy endings: in India, polio has been eradicated, HIV is well under control, and under his watch, 200,000 people have been cured of leprosy.

Bob was born to Nicholas, an auctioneer, and Kathleen (née Rushworth), a physiotherapist, at his grandmother’s nursing home in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, even though the family lived in Fowey, Cornwall. Before graduating as a chartered surveyor at the College of Estate Management in Kensington, London, he attended school in Truro. Before completing a Masters in International Administration at Cornell University, he traveled widely. In 1983, Bob met Jane Springham, who worked as a nurse in a small clinic on the Red Sea coast, during an early post in Yemen. In 1988, they married, and Bob was determined to raise his young family near the Cornish countryside where he grew up, so they moved from India to a farmhouse in Brownston, South Hams, Devon, in 1999.

With HLSP, a multinational healthcare consultancy, Bob spent the last decade of his career. He became heavily involved in climate activism when he retired in 2014 and was arrested as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests in April 2019. When Jane retired three years ago, the couple moved to Totnes. Bob was appallingly fit. During a family closing competition, he managed a seven-minute plank and thought nothing of a 20-mile kayak tour.

He died as he lived, riding a mountain bike up a hill, covered in dirt, with a grin on his face, in Jane’s words. His family remembers him as “the most extraordinary man to live with,” a devoted father who woke up interested in something new every morning. He leaves behind Jane and Catherine and Eleanor, their daughters, and Timothy and Richard, his children.

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