Tributes to generous Sidmouth accountant Deven
- Credit: Archant
A remarkable businessman credited with saving Sidmouth Golf Club was also a very private man, who will be remembered by his family simply as ‘papa’.
Deven Easterbrook’s name is perhaps best known for his accountancy firm, but he also gained a reputation from his unorthodox technique on the golf course and the hockey pitch.
He died on March 10 at the age of 85. His funeral was due to be held yesterday.
Deven’s family moved to Sidmouth from Marlborough when he was five years old. His parents took jobs at the golf club – Cyril as a golf professional, Eleanor as the club stewardess.
His uncles, too, were top golfers – Sid played in the Ryder Cup and his brothers took home numerous titles.
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Despite his lineage, Deven didn’t have a good technique, but he was probably the biggest hitter in Sidmouth ever. Some of the stories of how far he could hit a ball are part of the legend of the club.
He also had a good short game, and unofficially took just 57 shots to complete a round at the Sidmouth club – nine under par. His ‘eclectic’ – his best score on each hole over his lifetime – was 31.
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In the early 1960s, Sidmouth Golf Club was in a poor financial position, and his parents’ jobs were under threat until they agreed a pay cut. Deven helped to lead the way in broadening the club’s appeal to secure its future. Members still talk of barbecues he organised with attendances in the thousands.
Grahame Hook, a friend, said Deven even tried to get the Beatles to perform.
Another friend, Richard Eley, said: “He recruited new members from across Sidmouth – a lot of brickies, plumbers and electricians who wouldn’t normally have played golf. It had been quite elitist. Now it’s not a stuffy place at all.”
The keen sportsman also helped keep the hockey club going, serving as the third team’s captain for 20 years.
“The team was always struggling, so he was always recruiting,” said Richard.
“Quite often he used to stop the car on the way to a match and say ‘do you fancy playing hockey?’. Quite often they would get in. He could persuade people.”
Deven employed his business skills from an early age. As a teenager, he trained his dog to collect golf balls – in short supply during the war – which he would sell to boost his family’s income.
“He always had his mind on making money,” said Grahame.
Deven was keen to ensure other people made the most of theirs, too, and trained as a chartered accountant.
In 1971, he set up his own firm, Easterbrooks. It became Easterbrook Eaton when he made John Eaton a partner. It has branches in Ottery and Sidmouth.
John said: “We had a good time together and the business prospered. He was very conscientious and a very astute, business-like person. The philosophy was the client should be the primary objective.”
After Deven retired, aged just 52, he got itchy feet and decided to travel the world, visiting more than 30 countries, including North Korea.
It was in Thailand, in 1988, that he met Roongaroon and her two daughters, Panjarat and Pirawan – better known as Hoo and Hong, respectively – and immediately fell in love. He said he saw Roongaroon and asked on the day they met if she would marry him.
Hoo and Hong said: “We don’t remember when my parents got married, all we remember is the love a father has for his two daughters.
“Papa didn’t just marry our mum, he also married her children. He didn’t see us as someone else’s children, he saw us as his own and he was our Papa.
“The things that we’ll remember most about Papa are his humour, kindness and generosity which he showed to everyone. ”
Deven’s cousin, William, added: “Deven took a refreshingly direct, and often iconoclastic, approach to life. On occasion, this straightforward approach would leave some people thinking that Deven was awkward or difficult to get to know. But almost always after further contact, they changed their minds, and would then consider him to be the thoughtful, genuine and kind person that he was.”