Norman Sofier obituary

My father, Norman Sofier, who has died aged 89, was a history teacher who spent his entire career at the same school in Hertfordshire.

Norman was born in the East End of London as the only child of two eastern European Jewish refugees, Ann (nee Podolsky), a PA to a bank chairman, and her husband, Hyman Sofier, who ran a barber shop. When Norman was young the family moved to Cambridge, and it was there that his parents took in a child of his own age, Zvi, who had been sent to Britain on the Kindertransport just before the second world war.

After attending the Perse school in Cambridge, Norman studied history at Downing College, Cambridge, before becoming an employment manager at the Vauxhall car factory in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. In 1968, in his spare time, he created the historical board game Saga, and left Vauxhall to sell the game in outlets such as WH Smith and Hamleys. Later, in 1979, a book of 24 board games he invented was published under the title Cops and Robbers.

In 1972 Norman took up a job as a history teacher at Nicholas Breakspear Catholic school in St Albans, Hertfordshire, where he was also a careers teacher and where he remained until his retirement in 1995. He was held in high esteem there as a wise and kind colleague in the staff room, and throughout his life was joyfully greeted by former students.

Judaism was central to Norman’s life, and it informed the thoughtful way he lived. A Samaritans volunteer, he was very involved in interfaith relations, and enjoyed for many years being co-chair of the Radlett branch of the Council of Christians and Jews. He was also co-chair of the local Jewish Historical Society.

A keen follower of rugby union, Norman was widely read and keenly interested in politics. In retirement he and his wife, Nena (nee Levy), a primary school teacher whom he married in 1962, relished entertaining, rural walking, travel and concerts.

Particularly noted for his affinity with children of all ages, he had a fund of sweet stories and gentle jokes that he passed down the generations.

He is survived by Nena, his children Jon, me and Ben, and a granddaughter, Miriam.

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