Shahrokh Vafadari obituary | Iran

My father, Shahrokh Vafadari, who has died aged 89, was a prominent member of the Zoroastrian Iranian community in the UK.

After retiring from his job as a chemical engineer in 1992 he devoted himself to promoting the Zoroastrian faith and Iranian culture to anyone who was interested. He became an academic authority on the evolution of the Zoroastrian calendar, and was chosen by Robert Winston as an adviser on Zoroastrianism for his 2005 television series The Story of God, escorting Winston to Iran for its filming.

In memory of his eldest son, Martin, who died in 1992, Shahrokh also founded the Ferdowsi Trust Fund in a house in Ealing, west London, where he would bring together Iranians, Zoroastrians and others to hear lectures on Persian history, music, art and poetry. He welcomed Iranian refugees and asylum seekers to the house, offering them friendship and a sense of community, in recognition of the difficulties he faced when he first came to the UK.

From his birthplace of Kerman in south-east Iran, Shahrokh was brought up in a Zoroastrian priestly family, the youngest of the five children of Rustam, a merchant, and Tootee, a housewife. His mother died when he was 11 and he was sent to Tehran under the guardianship of his older brothers, where he attended Alborz college. At 16 he joined Iran’s Imperial Navy, ending up in Portsmouth as a second lieutenant on HMS Howe as part of a Royal Navy officer exchange training programme. Once his contract ended in 1953 he moved to London, took A-levels and worked odd jobs, living frugally in a bedsit in Earl’s Court, west London.

On his first Christmas Day in London he woke up with no food to eat and, finding the shops closed, began to wander further and further away from his home in search of somewhere that was open. By the time he got to Leicester Square the police had begun to take an interest in his movements, which they felt were suspicious, and they apprehended him. Once he was able to convince them that he was simply hungry and had no idea about Christmas, they took him into their local station, served him up a full English breakfast and sent him on his way.

After those early hard times, Shahrokh gained a place at Imperial College London to study for a degree in chemical engineering. When he followed up with a master’s degree at the same institution, he gave himself a stomach ulcer and was admitted to St George’s hospital. There Anne Scamell nursed him. They fell in love and were married in 1963.

For 30 years Shahrokh then worked as a chemical engineer in the UK and abroad, with companies such as Shell and British Gas. It was once he retired in 1992 that he was really able to give his full attention to studying and publicising the Zoroastrian faith and Iranian culture.

He is survived by Anne, his children, Rebecca, Justin and me, and seven grandchildren.

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