January 11th, 2008
It is with very great sadness that I must report the death of my good puzzle friend Fred Armitage. He unexpectedly died quietly in his sleep at his home last week, following a very short illness. His funeral is on 22nd January, 2008, in Ham, SW London.
I had known Fred for over 20 years, and for at least the last 12 of those we used to meet every Friday at a local pub to discuss and solve puzzles. His passing will leave a very great hole in my life.
Many of you will have met him in Antwerp at the 2002 puzzle party, when he was my exchange assistant. He was also a regular attendee at the monthly puzzle party in Camden in London.
His favourite puzzles were polycube assemblies, and I'll always remember him usually carrying a rucksack full of tetracubes, pentacubes, hexominoes and sometimes much larger pieces etc etc. Many of his designs were included in "A Compendium of Cube-Assembly Puzzles using Polycube Shapes" : (Kevin Holmes and Rik van Grol, Aug 2002). Others can be found here: Pieces of Eight, Identical Twins, Fred's Fiasco, Phred's Phenomenon, and Min-ed Mistake.
One of my earliest memories of him, regarding puzzles, was when I showed him Oskar's Matchboxes. He asked if he could borrow the matchboxes I had assembled, to show children that weekend. When we met the following week he returned the puzzle to me entirely rebuilt from different matchboxes, as my version had been worn out by his many friends. He also told me of the despair he had felt when trying to buy additional matchboxes. He had gone into a local shop and asked for half a dozen matchboxes. The young man behind the counter replied, "What's half a dozen?"
He was always more than ready to discuss his current puzzles with anyone he saw looking in his direction, no matter what their age. At one pub in Teddington for many years he was almost the resident child sitter, entertaining children with a variety of puzzles, while their parents were able to eat and drink in peace!
I spent many years unsuccessfully trying to widen his horizons, and recently he told me that he had bought his first burr. By profession Fred was a recently retired university tutor in organic chemistry at King's College London, and I've spent many evenings listening to his tales of frustration about the education system. As well as having a great love of puzzles, he was also a collector of minerals from around the world, Meccano magazines dating back to the 1920s, and he also enjoyed hill-walking, singing, cryptic crosswords and number play.
I will miss him greatly.