Maidenhead Rotary Club is mourning the loss of long-serving member Himanshu Patel, known to everyone as Harry, who has died from Covid-19, aged just 58.
A Rotarian for more than 21 years, Harry passed away on Saturday, February 27, at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, where he was being treated in intensive care.
The popular Maidenhead restaurateur and dedicated family man joined the club in September 1999. He served primarily on the youth services and fundraising committees, often hosting meetings in his restaurant.
Harry was the driving force behind several restaurants and catering businesses in Maidenhead, most recently Gourmet Chicken, now based at the Maiden’s Head pub in the High Street.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Harry came to the UK as a small child and grew up in London. He studied chemistry at Trent Polytechnic but decided to forego a promising career as a scientist, instead joining the family newsagent and confectionary business.
His first venture in Maidenhead was a newsagent in the High Street in the 1990s which, with the coming of the internet, he converted into an internet cafe and sandwich bar. Harry also ran a snack wagon delivering to businesses around the town.
He was an active member of Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce, serving on its town centre committee, and he was the organisation’s president in 2001.
But Harry’s real passion was for cooking, so he completed a fast-track catering course at Thames Valley University, which included training at the Sheraton Hotel in London.
With his new skills he started a successful business in London providing canteen services to construction sites and also opened Nosh, a restaurant in Maidenhead. The business evolved through several phases, including an Indian restaurant, to eventually become Gourmet Chicken in 2013.
“He just loved cooking. He enjoyed eating out and good food. When we went on holiday he would want to try everything and bring back ideas. He really enjoyed culinary conjuring,” said his wife Alka.
The couple, who were married in 2005, have two children, Anjali, 13 and Rohan 11.
A dedicated Chelsea fan, Harry loved football and enjoyed cricket with his son, who plays at Boyne Hill Cricket Club. He was also interested in politics and enjoyed discussing domestic and international issues with friends and family.
As a Rotarian, Harry possessed a strong sense of community service. Most recently he was involved in providing lunches for children missing out on free school meals during half-term, continuing to organise them even as he became sick with Covid-19.
“That’s just the kind of person he was,” said Alka. “Above all he loved making people happy. He was a doting father who lived for his family and would do anything to make us happy. That was his purpose in life.”
Harry’s family has asked for any donations in his memory to be made via the club to the Aarti children’s home in India.