We are very sad to report that Tony Cornforth, the 'ton' in Makaton, passed away on 17th April after a lengthy illness.
Margaret Walker developed the Makaton Vocabulary while working as a Senior Speech Therapist at Botleys Park Hospital in the early 1970s, Tony and his colleague Kathy Jonhson were working for the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) and were allocated to work with Margaret's team to help teach signs to staff. In recognition of the significant roles they played at that time, Margaret included their names in the name Makaton (MArgaret Walker, KAthy Johnston, and TONy Cornforth) - see A brief history of Makaton.
Tony was born in Trimley St Mary in 1934. His family moved to Kesgrave in 1941 where he went to school and was a member of both the church choir and the local scouts. On leaving school he worked for a time for British Fermentation Ltd in Ipswich and then at the Cliff Quay Power Station prior to national Service in the RAF at age 18.
Following conscription, he underwent early training as a nurse at St. Clements in Ipswich and St Audrey’s in Melton before going on to St James’ Hospital in Balham. As a Queen’s Nurse in the district his duties covered Balham, Battersea, Wandsworth and Clapham. He later served as a charge nurse at the St James Hospital. He went on to become a Night Superintendent at the Bollinbroke Hospital in Battersea, during which time he studied Hospital Administration at the Battersea Polytechnic.
In 1964 Tony joined the staff of RAD in his capacity as a Psychiatric Hospitals Visitor for the Home Counties. It was while working for the deaf without speech and those who were both blind and deaf, that he worked with Margaret Walker when she was developing the Makaton Vocabulary.
In 1976 he was appointed Area Manager organising services for the elderly in Kingston Upon Thames. Consequent upon the introduction of the Registered Homes Act, 1984 he became the principal officer responsible for the inspection and registration of Kingston’s residential care homes in addition to the Health Authority’s Nursing Homes in the Borough.
His final appointment was in 1987, when as a member of a team of Inspectors he worked for Surrey County Council until early retirement in 1993.
In 1973 Tony met Christopher and their partnership endured for almost forty-six years. They came to live in Kesgrave when Tony retired, while Chris continued with his own nursing career at the local Nuffield Hospital until he too retired. They entered into a Civil Partnership in 2005. Tony occupied his time with his many hobbies that included cooking, computing, overseas travel and entertaining friends.
In January 2008 they embarked on what was to be a world cruise. Sadly, it all too soon became clear that Tony was suffering from cancer. The cruise was cut short on reaching San Francisco where he received life-saving emergency treatment prior to repatriation. He had further treatment at the Marston Hospital once back in England.
Throughout the ensuing decade he suffered from an increasing variety of health problems. Although he was obliged to forgo his regular Water Workouts at both the Deben Pool and Felixstowe Leisure Centre some five years ago, he continued his daily walks, stopping for a chat with the friends he made along his route. He did this right up until the day of the onslaught of his final incapacity shortly before Easter.
Following a brief stay in the Ipswich Hospital, he transferred to the St Elizabeth Hospice for palliative care. Tony will be missed by his partner and family as well as all who knew him.
His legacy is the part he played in helping with the creation of Makaton, one that will live on, serving the well-being of thousands throughout the world.