Politician | 1935 – 2008
Don Ross, who died suddenly at home in Bearpark, Durham City, on Monday afternoon last week, was one of the most respected and well-liked local politicians in the region.
As well as being deputy leader of the Labour-controlled Durham County Council he was a member of the Newcastle International Airport local authority holding company, a Director of the County Durham Development Company and a member of both the North East Regional Assembly and the Association of North East Councils.
He also served on the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority, and was a member of the Durham City Travel Study Implementation Group, County Durham Environmental Trust, and the Local Agenda 21 Roundtable.
Coun Ross entered politics at a comparatively late age, only being elected onto the county to represent the Framwellgate Moor electoral division in 1987, aged 52.
Born in the heart of what was the Durham coalfield at Ushaw Moor, near Durham City, as one of six sons, his family moved to the neighbouring village of Bearpark when he was around 18 months old where his parents ran the local working men’s club, and he stayed in the village for the remainder of his life.
He attended the village primary school and then Durham Johnston Grammar School after passing his 11 plus soon after the end of the Second World War.
A devoted family man, he met his wife Joan when he began working for the Durham Water Company after leaving school.
In 1990 at the age of 55 he took early retirement from the city council and enrolled at St Cuthbert’s Society, Durham University, as a mature student, studying Sociology and Social Policy. He left three years later with a 2:1 degree and was a member of the St Cuthbert’s Society right until his death.
As he became firmly established on the county council Coun Ross became well known as somebody who would help solve their problems.
His widow recalls fondly how she would insist they eat out on Sunday lunchtime to avoid him being called at home while he ate his Sunday lunch.
“Don would never ignore a phone call, even in the middle of his Sunday lunch. That is why I insisted we go out just that one day,” she said.
Coun Mick Henry, chairman of the Association of North East Councils, said: “He was regarded very much as a people person and was, without doubt, a strong advocate for local authorities and the communities they serve.”
Although his ties and affections were firmly entrenched in Durham, Coun Ross enjoyed travel and the family had a memorable visit to Maryland, USA, last year visiting daughter Ann’s in-laws. He was also a keen musician and talented singer.
Coun Ross leaves Joan and two daughters, Ann and Elaine Miriam.
Fond farewell to Don, man of the people, THE JOURNAL 27/03/2006. Neil McKay