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Obituary: Jack Gittoes – a Mr Fix-it electronics engineer who specialised in lasers

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BORN one of premature twins who were not expected to survive, Jack Gittoes went on to live for 84 years becoming a talented electronics engineer.

His reputation was such that bosses at a huge American company once said of him: “If Mr Gittoes cannot fix the problem, then no one can fix it.”

That was something customers came to know at Figgures in Lymington High Street where he later worked as a TV engineer.

Jack Gittoes with his beloved dog Chisum
Jack Gittoes with his beloved dog Chisum

Starting as a 15-year-old apprentice at the then Hancock and Crafts in New Milton, Jack’s reputation became so well known within the electronics industry he was recruited later in life by US company Teradyne, an automatic test equipment designer and manufacturer.

His specialisation was in lasers which, as his son Mark said at his funeral, “were straight out of Star Trek science fiction, at the time”.

Jack was known as the firm’s problem solver, sent all around the world to sort out customers’ troubles. Teradyne’s company newspaper even had a comic strip about Jack’s “brain in a box”.

It was Teradyne bosses who came up with the remark about Jack’s problem-fixing abilities after he was sent to help a firm in Switzerland with a major systems problem that previous engineers had been unable to repair.

Jack’s career success was a remarkable achievement for someone who was born in 1937, with his twin sister, two months premature. Such were the fears for their survival that they were “quickly named after Jack and Jill from the nursery rhyme”, according to his son Mark.

His father, also named Jack, was a storekeeper at Wellworthy. His mother Laura was a gamekeeper’s daughter from Bashley. The family home was a council house on the Flushards estate in Lymington.

Educated at Lymington Infant School he went on to Brockenhurst secondary, leaving to enter his apprenticeship.

Jack’s three older brothers all went to sea: Tony in the Royal Navy and Terry and Brian in the merchant navy.

At 18 Jack was called up for national service, spending a year with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Germany working on tank systems.

After leaving the army he joined Mullard in Southampton, a leading electronics firm. He met wife-to-be June, nee Rostigina, while she was working in a dry cleaners in Lymington. The couple married in 1961 and had two children, Mark and Emma.

Jack clematis, lavender twirl
Jack clematis, lavender twirl

The family lived in Hythe and East Boldre among other places, including three months in Boston, Massachusetts, when he worked for Teradyne.

In 1999 Jack and June moved to Pilley where he enjoyed his passion for gardening, his specialisation being the clematis. He became editor of a newsletter for the British Clematis Society and propagated a new variety which he called lavender twirl. The plant was recognised by the Royal Horticulture Society.

Beaulieu Heath was a favourite place for Jack to walk his beloved dogs Chisum and later Woody.

In 2018 June died. Jack was left bereft by her death but found help and support at St John’s Church in Boldre where he had a bench installed in her memory.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he was determined to continue with his life, making trips to Boston and Devon to see former work colleagues.

He met Pat, who became a companion to him, looking after Jack until he died at home on 3rd January.

At his funeral, Mark said that his father should be remembered for the “great and wonderful things he achieved in life for his wife and children”.

He is survived by his children Emma and Mark and his brother Brian.

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