Tributes have been paid to a prominent community figure in Amersham described as “one of the kindest, pleasant and thoughtful men” who sadly passed away last month aged 79.
Anthony del Tufo was well known around the town as a member of the Amersham Society since 1972 and as chairman of the Amersham Museum from 2001 until he retired in 2012.
Described as a “visionary”, tributes have poured in from Chesham and Amersham MP, Dame Cheryl Gillan and his colleagues at the museum and the town society.
Dame Cheryl said Mr del Tufo was “devoted” to Amersham and “led the museum team with distinction”. She added: “[He] held sensible and practical views on politics and I have often benefitted from his wisdom, advice and guidance.
“He will be a great loss to his family and friends and to his wider Buckinghamshire ‘family’.”
Dorothy Symes, acting chairman of the Amersham Society, said his “drive, enthusiasm and creative energy for everything he undertook” was evident from his early days as a member.
One of his first successful and lasting projects with the society was in 1975, when he led a small group, which produced the “town trail” leaflet for Amersham Old Town.
In 1976 Anthony became vice chairman of the society and in 1978 he became convener of a small planning group within the society to scrutinise planning applications made to the district council.
During the late 1970s the society had begun to amass a collection of objects and stories about the town’s local history and like many other civic and historical groups, there was an aspiration to find a permanent home to house this collection and create a museum.
Very few groups manage to achieve this – but Anthony, along with chairman Eric Corns and their committee did.
The importance of 49 High Street, a medieval hall house in the Old Town, was already known to the committee and following the death of its longstanding occupant Mr Toovey, it eventually became possible to purchase the building in 1985.
Emily Toettcher, current curator at the museum, said it was “no mean feat” for the Amersham society; a Trust was established – which still exists today – and the society had to fundraise £65,000 to purchase the building and then raise around double that sum to restore it.
An appeal committee was established, comprising Eric, Anthony, Brian Fuller, Chris Parrott and Philip Plumbly – Eric’s vision and Anthony’s business acumen and financial background was essential to the success of the project, which, after much hard work, raised the funds required.
The restoration project was equally challenging; the building required significant repairs, which were undertaken by contractors and volunteers alike. Finally, in 1991 Amersham Museum opened to visitors.
Thousands of people visited the museum in its first year and the committee’s success was recognised with a national award of ‘best museum on a shoestring’.
In 2001 the museum formally separated from the Amersham Society and Anthony became the museum’s first chairman.
Ms Toettcher added: “As chair Anthony had a calm, careful intelligent approach that his committee greatly respected. He was also a visionary – just as he’d shared Eric’s vision to create the museum, he had great ideas about how to continue to involve people in their local story. He envisaged and went on to produce three editions of the Amersham martyrs community play, which involved hundreds of people in promenade theatre performances in this building.”
Anthony retired as chair in 2012 – but retiring as chair did not mean retiring from the museum.
Ms Toettcher said: “In the last few years Anthony helped welcome people to the museum and was always keen to help them in any way he could.
“He was brilliant with visitors – he was such a clever man with a vast knowledge but never made you feel stupid for knowing less than him.
“He continued to lead guided walks – peppering them with funny stories – which reflected his wonderful sense of humour.
“Anthony was immensely proud of the museum but didn’t consider it to belong to him. He believed it belonged to us, the people in his local community.
“His efforts and his ability to enthuse others have created a special place where thousands of people have had enjoyable and meaningful experiences as visitors and volunteers.
“It’s a place for making connections and friends. The ongoing success of Amersham Museum is a fitting legacy for such a wonderful man.”
Mrs Symes added: “The Old Town would be a poorer place without Anthony’s enormous contribution to the wellbeing of Amersham and the residents over many years.”