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23 May 2008

Obituary: Rupert Walder

The reproductive health advocate Rupert Walder died suddenly of a heart attack in April 2008, aged 42. Ann Furedi pays tribute to her friend and colleague.

‘The world of sexual and reproductive health care sometimes seems too “worthy”, too politically-correct and too self-righteous, and the people involved in it, too egotistical, too self-interested and too concerned with what their donors are thinking. Rupert was an antidote to all this. He was scathing, irreverent and genuinely interested in what he appeared to be interested in. He was un-ambitious to a fault; recognising the talents of others easily, but often underestimating his own.

‘I first got to know Rupert in 1994, when we were both working on a conference to reform the abortion law in Northern Ireland. He worked for International Planned Parenthood Federation, I was running an advocacy charity, Birth Control Trust. From then on we worked on many projects together. It was Rupert who developed the first bpas material for the male partners and friends of our clients. He was the best of colleagues, and the best of friends.

‘At work, he took responsibility and made problems evaporate. He had a special ability to pay attention to people. As Public Affairs Manager at the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, he was taken on to manage the ‘great and the good’ – parliamentarians and members of “the Authority” - which he did with the skill that one would expect of a former Eton-boy called ‘Rupert’. When he worked for bpas, he charmed the nurses, counsellors and receptionists - treating them with the same respect he had shown to peers and bishops. There were tears in our London clinic when they heard of his death.

‘As a friend, he was loyal, attentive, caring and just one of the most entertaining people I have ever met. Every memory I have of him makes me smile; that’s a rare and a precious legacy.

‘If there is an afterlife, Rupert will not be resting in peace. He’ll be stirring up some campaign for social justice and partying like there’s every tomorrow.’

Ann Furedi is chief executive of bpas.