THE businessman and tax advisor Melville Summerfield, who has died aged 81, was known for his professional integrity and his involvement both with Newcastle upon Tyne synagogue and its communal activities, writes Faga Speker. He held executive positions at Jesmond Synagogue and was a council member of Newcastle’s United Hebrew Congregation for many years. He became its president in 1985 until 1988. He was also actively involved in the development of the new synagogue in Gosforth.
The elder son of Anne and Charles Summerfield, Melville grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne with his parents, older sister, Stella (who predeceased him in 2011) and his younger brother, Maurice. After leaving school in 1950 at the age of 15, he joined his father in the family wholesale distribution business, which became a leading toy distribution company in the UK.
On retirement he took a new role as a tax advisor, and he continued to work for his clients until a few weeks before his death. Melville served in the RAF during the 1950s, and became a proud and loyal member of AJEX, attending many Remembrance Parades in London.He married Sandra Linskill in October, 1952, settled in Gosforth and they had two children, Kate and Gideon. Both his great-grandfathers were Dayanim, and his grandfather Simon was one of the founders of the Gateshead Orthodox Jewish Community at the beginning of the 20th century.
Melville was also a respected member of the Representative Council for North East Jewry, becoming President, and representing the Newcastle community at The Board of Deputies for many years up to his death. He chaired the North East Shechita Board during the 1960s and '70s, ensuring the continuation of kosher supplies for the local communities. He served on several committees, including the Central British Fund and the Ashburton Residents Association in Gosforth. From his early teens Melville was active in Jewish sports groups, playing league table tennis for Maccabi First Team competitively until around two years ago.
With his passion for prize competitions, he was probably one of the few people to have won a luxury trip on the Orient Express twice in consecutive years.
He was a winner on national TV shows including Blankety Blank, compéred by Terry Wogan, and a notable contender on The Weakest Link, sparring with Anne Robinson
Close friends described him as “a true gentleman in every sense”.
Melville is survived by his wife, Sandra, daughter Kate, son Gideon, son-in-law, Harvey, daughter-inlaw, Kirsty, five grandchildren, and brother, Maurice. Melville Summerfield