Obituary: Peter Grender 1936-2017

Peter Grender, Dad, showed tactical genius from an early age.  So determined was he to win the heart of my Mum – Iris, the girl he met at the school dance, that he offered to memorise her phone number for his mate who had spent the evening dancing with her and promptly pretended to forget it. When Iris went out with another boyfriend, Peter would pop round for a regular cuppa with Iris’s Mum, his innate charm won the day!

He was a mix of generosity, wit, creativity, relentless attention to detail but most of all a loyalty and warmth that won and kept him friendships of all ages.

At school, St. Dunstans College Catford, he formed strong friendships that lasted his whole life.  After national service he went into sales and advertising joking that he started at the bottom with sales of laxatives and condoms, so the only way was up.

He always advised to do a job that is your hobby, and he loved the work he did.  He rose rapidly and was the youngest Director of S H Benson one of the largest British-owned ad agencies in the world.  He explained away a rugby-induced black eye at his first board meeting: “clearly I have fought hard to get here”.

As a Marketing Director he forged innovative approaches to bringing new products to the market.  Monster Munch, and round tea-bags are just two examples.  He formed one of the first agencies in the UK to specialise in development of new products and was one of the first in his field to recognise the role of brand not only as a value for business, but as the property of the consumer.

He was always supportive of his wife’s career and was the inspiration behind a highly successful monthly nursery course and her books for children.

As a General Manager running seven factories he had a strong sense of the ethics of doing right by the workforce.  He didn’t just talk about worker participation – he made it happen.

He brought that industry know-how into politics when he followed his wife into the Liberals. He brought capability and wisdom with little ego.

He advised Paddy Ashdown as leader of the Liberal Democrats on branding and messaging and wrote the brief for the bird logo the Party still has today.  As an activist from Kingston he understood the Party.

As President and Chair of Kingston Lib Dems for over 30 years his advice was sought by 3 MPs he helped to elect.  They could rely on him to do the most complex tasks such as the setting up and chairing the company board that ran Ed Davey’s office.

But it was his work with, and mentoring of, younger people which gave him great joy including Young Enterprise voluntary work at Tiffin Girls.

A bad fall, followed by major back surgery and a stroke made the last three years a challenge for him, and for those who loved and supported him.

A month ago Peter celebrated his 80th birthday.  That’s where we should see him now.  Amongst friends, surrounded by family especially grandsons Toby and Ewan of whom he was so proud.  He will be telling jokes, making speeches, talking with passion about politics, drinking wine.  Sinatra will be playing in the background and everyone will have to join in with the occasional cockney sing-song.

* Olly Grender is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords

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8 Comments

  • Peter was a wonderful combination of fun and brains. He helped so many people inside and outside the party – and partly thanks to his lovely daughter (“our Olly”) I was a huge beneficiary of his advice and support – from standing for the selection as PPC for Kingston and Surbiton in 1995 through to establishing a permanent Lib Dem office in Surbiton and his ideas on party strategy. His contribution to Kingston Liberals and Liberal Democrats and his contribution to the national party especially under Paddy was huge and on his sad departure, deserves to be more widely recognised and celebrated. And given he and his adorable wife Iris are partly to blame for Olly, even more thanks to a lovely man.

  • Lovely piece Olly.

  • Angela Davies 19th Jan '17 - 10:08am

    R.I.P Peter you will be sorely missed

  • Matt Lambert 19th Jan '17 - 10:37am

    That is a fine tribute Olly. Your father was a lovely, funny, very bright man who will be greatly missed.

  • What a lovely fella Peter was. Introduced me to the Lib Dems. Encouraged me to get involved and I’ve spent my adult life fighting for liberal causes inside and outside the party. Thanks Peter for everything you’ve done. They’ll plenty of folks toasting you at the England-France game.

  • As anyone who has been actively involved in Kingston Lib Dems will appreciate, Peter was the one person in the background who knew everything. Not surprisingly, since he had been the mainstay of the local party all his political life, even though he had never been elected to public office. He was Chair for many years and when he stood down was appointed as President of Kingston Liberal Democrats. He was universally loved. I will personally miss him a lot, because he gave me so much valuable advice and support when I was Chair.

    But being President was not a sinecure, because Peter continued to head up our Property Company and had a firm grasp on the finances and fundraising for major projects. After recent worrying ill health he stood back from official roles, but he was still attending events until a week so before he died.

  • Harry Kretchmer 13th Jul '18 - 10:07pm

    Hi Olly, I was really sorry to hear about your dad. Unless I have got the wrong man, I believe he – and your mum – were the brains behind the songs that I listened to throughout my childhood, and that I have rediscovered recently on old cassette tapes, created as part of the amazing ‘345’ label. More here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/MOC-BTMOH-24-04-Kiddicraft-group-interview-FINALISED-Tr%E2%80%A6_10f06c22c3015f298b93480b2262c305.pdf

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