Derek Elliott Till died peacefully in his reading chair at Carleton-Willard Village, Bedford, Massachusetts, on April 21, 2020. He was 97.
Derek was born in his grandparent's house in Eastleigh, near Southampton, England on November 25, 1922. He was the only child of Winifred (Elliott) Till and Henry Till. His parents owned a butcher shop in Woking, Surrey, where Derek grew up. Derek enjoyed helping with the shop after school and on weekends preparing sausage casing and making deliveries on his bicycle. Resourceful, clever, and very hard working, they managed to keep the shop open during the 1930's depression and the years of rationing during World War II and its aftermath.
Derek was a gifted student and completed more years of schooling than typical for his family and neighbors before joining the British Civil Service in 1938 at age 16. He worked in a mail and message center in London near the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street. During the London Blitz of 1940-41, he volunteered as a "firewatcher" on the roof of his workplace three nights a week, spotting and dousing incendiary bombs; from that perch he had a striking view of the great fires burning in east London.
As soon as he was of age, Derek volunteered for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and was sent to Canada for training as a pilot of heavy bomber aircraft. Upon return to Britain in 1944, he flew 35 trips into Germany, mostly night missions, as pilot in command of a Lancaster bomber. Derek was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for continuing alone to the night's target after his aircraft was separated from the stream of bombers, a move that involved great risk. Just before the war in Europe ended, Derek was sent to India and what was then Burma to support the war in the Pacific. He returned to England in 1946. Derek enjoyed pointing out that he learned to pilot a heavy bomber before he learned how to drive.
At the conclusion of his RAF flight training in Canada, Derek had been given leave in New York City, where he met Mary Berna, a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. They spent evenings dancing to Benny Goodman and other big bands and sparks flew. After the war, Mary was sent to England by Fortune Magazine to work on a story; Derek met her on arrival and they were engaged during that visit. After they were married, Derek entered the University of London. Their son Stephen was born in London in 1949. Upon completion of his chemistry degree in 1951, Derek, Mary and Stephen moved to the United States where they settled in Concord, Massachusetts. It was there that daughter Alison and son Peter were born. Derek thrived for 34 years as a chemist at the consulting company Arthur D. Little, where he ultimately led the Product Development section. Derek and Mary created a home full of music and books that was in a constant state of renovation by Derek. After 46 years of marriage, Mary died in 1993.
Derek was driven by curiosity in all things in life and thrived when applying ingenuity and creativity to problem solving. In his professional life, his product development projects ranged from food to paint to plastics. He made major alterations or additions to every home he owned, engaging family and friends as work crew. He and Mary took particular pleasure in transforming a summer home in Nantucket into a comfortable and whimsical gathering place for family and friends.
The Concord Players was a second home for Derek for 60 years, where he applied his talents to acting, set design, set construction and participation in the governing board. He made close friends at the Players, and drew his family into productions as actors, musicians, and stage hands.
In 1995 Derek married Patricia Blevins Butcher, also an active member of the Concord Players. Together they spent a passionate two decades enjoying many shared interests, most importantly travel and the theater. They did many theater productions together and were still performing when Patricia died in 2016.
Derek is survived by son Stephen and wife Linda Butterworth-Till of Carlisle, Massachusetts; daughter Alison and husband Dirk Greeley of Anchorage, Alaska; and son Peter and wife Lucy Till of Edington, Wiltshire, England. He was a proud and loving grandfather of six: Christy Till of Tempe, Arizona; Henry Till of Carlisle, Massachusetts; Jeremy Till of Sacramento, California; and Esme, Lara, and Cameron Till of Edington, Wiltshire, England; and a delighted great grandfather of Dylan Till of Sacramento, California. Derek was an engaged and affectionate stepfather to Jon Butcher of Carrboro, North Carolina; Ben Butcher of Boston, Massachusetts; and Amy Butcher of no fixed address; and step grandfather to Lucy Butcher of North Carolina.
The family hopes to plan a memorial gathering in the future and asks that those interested in attending contact Stephen, Alison, or Peter directly or at the following address:
3721 Laron Lane
Anchorage, AK 99504
The family requests that friends and family, should they desire, remember Derek by donating to a food bank or charity that is supporting those affected economically or medically by Covid-19.