Ex-Norwich Union boss and City fan remembered as ‘the rock’ of his family
PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 August 2020
A Norwich businessman who was involved in some of the city’s biggest businesses and who was “the rock” of his family has died aged 96.
Peter Sharman CBE joined Norwich Union, as it was then known, as a clerk and rose through the company to eventually become its chief general manager and director.
He also served on the board of Jarrold and Sons and the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society and was heavily involved with Norwich City Football Club during the 1980s.
But away from the business world, he was also a dedicated family man, described by relatives as their rock, who will be greatly missed.
Born in Ipswich in 1924, Mr Sharman went to Springfield Junior School followed by Northgate Grammar School.
Upon leaving school he took up an office job at the Electric House in the town and it was while working in the building that he met Eileen, the woman who would eventually become his wife.
During the Second World War, Mr Sharman volunteered with the Royal Air Force, completing a fast track training course and going onto serve as a glider pilot in the battle of Arnhem.
After the war, he and Eileen married and Mr Sharman enrolled at Edinburgh University, graduating with a degree in mathematics.
In 1950 the couple returned to East Anglia and Mr Sharman took up a position as clerk at Norwich Union, starting on a six-year actuary and underwriting training scheme.
During his time with the company he worked his way up through the ranks of the business, now known as Aviva, and eventually became the chief general manager in 1974, a position he held for nine years.
While with the company he travelled extensively, and family members recalled him taking trips which involved several days sailing on RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and flights on Concorde.
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Mr Sharman was also technology driven, and in 1959 was given the task of researching computers for Norwich Union, a role which led to him being instrumental in the company’s purchase of an Orion computer in the early 1960s.
Chris Sharman, 34, one of Mr Sharman’s grandchildren, said despite his obvious business drive and acumen, his grandfather was a very humble man.
He said: “He was extremely humble and just the most caring, compassionate man, he must have been under a lot of pressure at work but he was the most caring person.”
Mr Sharman said after sharing news of his grandfather’s death on a Facebook page for Aviva employees past and present he had been inundated with tributes. He said: “Every comment has used the word gentleman and said he always had time for people.”
Mr Sharman retired from Norwich Union in 1984 but he didn’t slow down – upon retirement he took up places on the boards of several well-known Norfolk companies, including Duffields Mills, Jarrold and Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.
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Away from the boardrooms, and despite being born in Ipswich, he was a dedicated Canaries fan, and served as a trustee of the Norwich City Football Club Appeal Fund Trust.
Mr Sharman said he had fond childhood memories of accompanying his grandfather to football matches.
“From the age of eight I sat in the director’s box [at Carrow Road] with him,” he said. “Most matches we went together, he was who got me into football and I remember going to football matches with him and sitting in the director’s box with Delia Smith.”
Mr Sharman said his grandfather would be greatly missed.
“He was the rock in our family, he was amazing, he absolutely was,” he said.
“I’m sure everyone will say this but he was literally the best grandad you could have had and we were all very, very close to him.
“Above all his achievements in the business world and he clearly had a lot, it was his kindness, and he’s instilled that in all of us...That’s his overriding legacy, that love. He was of that era where he wouldn’t tell us he loved us everyday but it was never in doubt.”
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