A WELL known Solihull man, who used his acclaimed horticultural skills to raise thousands of pounds for charity, has died shortly after celebrating his 97th birthday.
Laurence Jones, known as Laurie, was also a renowned inventor, devising a revolutionary car passenger safety system that predated airbag systems now in common use. Born in Birmingham on October 7, 1912, Laurie attended St Edward’s RC School Road, Selly Oak.
His carpentry skills were spotted as an apprentice at Boxfoldia, Dogpool, though he left the company to embark on an enterprise with his father Arthur to grow plants and vegetables and raise chickens.
They rented an old nursery at Popes Drive and a shop on Pershore Road Stirchley.
Laurie built his own greenhouse, the carpentry being done at night school. His green-fingered talents saw him grow colleas plants which he supplied all over the country.
When land came available at Shirley Road, Acocks Green, he built a nursery and became one of the first people to commercially produce John Innes Compost.
During the Second World War, he was involved in barrage balloons at Wythall Camp and later on water-borne balloons on the Mersey. He was also in Egypt where he repaired motor torpedo boats.
His inventiveness lead to several ideas, the most well known being his patent for a passenger car safety net that deployed in the event of an accident protecting the front seat passengers. Volvo expressed an interest.
Laurie married Freda Dewey from Northfield in the mid 50s and in 1957 their only son Peter was born.
The Acocks Green nursery was sold and Laurie and his family moved to School Road Hockley Heath, where Laurie built two houses and a new nursery.
Laurie sold the nursery in the early 70s and semi-retired, although he never fully retired until he went into Job’s Close nursing home in 2003.
After his wife Freda died in 1976, Laurie threw all his efforts into his garden, producing his own vegetables and fruit.
His enduring favourite flower was the dahlia and every year he held a plant sale at Our Lady of the Wayside RC Church in Shirley, which raised more than £1,000 in aid of the Father O’Mahony Trust
Paying tribute, his son Peter said: “He was concerned for the plight of those in the Third World, who but for the need of some medication or mosquito nets were dying in large numbers. He was a good man who put others before himself. Throughout his life money and possessions were totally secondary to Laurie, he loved his grandchildren, his plants, a good meal and particularly the company of others.”