Charlie Dalton obituary

·2-min read

My father, Charlie Dalton, who has died aged 103, was a war veteran, a general practitioner and a founder member of the National Society for Autistic Children (later the National Autistic Society).

He was born Israel Rosenbloom in London to Jewish immigrants Maurice (Moishe/Moses) Rosenbloom, who ran a sewing machine business, and his wife, Rebecca (nee Cohen), a seamstress. He later adopted the name Charlie Dalton, inspired by Dalton’s Weekly.

He gained a scholarship to Davenant foundation school, where he encountered Darwin’s theories and lost religious belief. Despite prejudices of the times, he was recommended for a place at St Bartholomew’s Medical School and qualified in 1941.

Commissioned as captain into the 8th Gurkha Rifle Regiment, he sailed to India on the Dominion Monarch. During the voyage, most medics were plagued by bedbugs, yet he and other Jewish doctors were untroubled, having acquired immunity in East End tenements. He served as medical officer in Burma, being mentioned in dispatches. He returned home in 1946, minus a small part of the bridge of his nose, thanks to shrapnel, and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of poisonous snakes and a propensity to nightmares.

Lacking medical connections, he abandoned plans to enter chest medicine and set up as a locum in Notting Hill. He married Eleanor Schildkraut in 1949 and, in 1954, in the new NHS, took on a GP practice in Hackney. The couple had three children and moved to Finchley in 1966.

In 1961, his third child, Richard, was diagnosed with autism, then a little-known condition. Initially, he mistook the psychiatrist’s use of the word “autistic” for “artistic”. In 1962, Charlie and Eleanor became founder members of what is now the National Autistic Society, which was instrumental in creating the legal right to education for children with disabilities.

He worked in his Hackney practice for 35 years, retiring in 1989 aged 72.

Charlie used a computer and smartphone, including Facebook and WhatsApp. He was thrilled to reach 100 and celebrated with a family lunch and a tea at the Savoy, where no one would believe his age. He remained independent, playing bridge, even driving into his 103rd year. He took charge of his health, embracing all interventions and treatments, despite his nephrologist son-in-law sometimes counselling otherwise. Lately, he acquired new hearing aids, had an eye test, underwent minor skin surgery and received both doses of Covid vaccine. He was devoted to his family and they to him.

Richard died in 2002 and Eleanor in 2003. He is survived by me, his son, Mitch, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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