From homeless to High Sheriff – the rise and rise of Jack Sapsworth MBE

IT’S THE sort of story you couldn’t make up , , , of how a homeless Luton lad beat off adversity to become the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire.

Wednesday, 23rd November 2011, 12:00 pm

This heartwarming tale of triumph over tragedy proves that humble beginnings are no barrier to sky high achievement when heart, soul and hard work are involved.

Popular Luton businessman Jack Sapsworth MBE still can’t believe his good fortune.

The Glaswegian-born Hatters fan, who considers himself a Lutonian “through-and-through,” said: “It was a great honour to be asked and I will endeavour to represent the county to the best of my ability.”

His one sadness is that the grandparents who brought him up will not be there to see his installation at Putteridge Bury in March, at an occasion full of pomp and ceremony.

Jack’s parents and grandparents were profoundly deaf. He was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Bonnybridge after his father died of TB when Jack was only two.

“My upbringing was very, very quiet,” he smiled. “But it was wonderful. My grandparents were very loving and caring and I couldn’t have wished for anything better.”

He headed south looking for work after leaving school. He’d been told there were jobs at Vauxhall and employment prospects were good.

“I lived rough and have experienced being homeless,” he admitted. “But I had the very fortunate opportunity of getting a job at a boarding house in Moor Street. With the job came a room.

“I quite fancied being a decorator and got an apprenticeship with a small company in Princess Street.”

From there Jack moved to the council housing department which he left in 1971 to set up his own business. By then he was married with three young sons and his boss told him he needed his brains examined, leaving a guaranteed job for life for the uncertainty ahead.

That was 40 years ago and J. Sapsworth Ltd, Glazing & Decorating Services, has gone from strength to strength. Two of his sons are employed in the family business and Jack, now 70, still goes in twice a week.

He lost his first wife, Betty, to cancer and married Lyn after meeting her in the hospice fundraising office.

“The rest is history,” he smiled.

Jack, a devout Christian, beat death twice in 2006 when he had complications from a rare blood disorder similar to leukaemia. But he pulled through “with the help of prayers and my family.”

His proudest moment was being awarded the MBE two years later. “It came as a complete surprise,” he said. “I thought why me? But I had the most wonderful day with my wife and sons.”

This modest Rotarian who works tirelessly for charity and the community is a former chairman of Signposts (Luton) and trustee of Keech Hospice Care. He is also vice president of Luton Town Football Club.

Next year will be an extremely busy one for the man who concedes he may have to retire to keep up with his new commitments. Lyn will be by his side as High Sheriff’s consort.

He still can’t believe why he was chosen to wear the black jacket, buckled shoes, jabot and sword.

“I’m just an ordinary man,” he said. “It’s such an honour and I feel so humble.”