DARRYL OUNG, a highly respected tutor with the YMCA Horizon Project in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, has died after suffering a heart attack.
He served as a police officer in Tunbridge Wells and worked in Sherwood as well as being a member of the tactical firearms unit. He has two sons, Darryl and Luke.
Mr Oung, who was in his fifties, had been an influential figure in the Horizon Project for eight years, working at the Sherwood branch and on Shipbourne Road in Tonbridge.
“He taught the boys plumbing but it was more than that, he had a ‘wealth of life experiences to share with them,” said Tunbridge Wells key worker Bonnie Corbett.
‘He had been a local bobby on the beat on the Sherwood estate and knew the families, what sort of lives the boys led’
“He had been a local bobby on the beat on the Sherwood estate for many years and he knew the families, what sort of lives the boys led.
“He would support them, he was the paternal type and he would go the extra mile for them, even away from the Horizon Project.”
His death has led to an outpouring of emotion among the young men who he had helped to save from going off the rails.
“They all respected him hugely and were very fond of him,” said Ms Corbett. “They are coming into the centre now and sharing their memories of him.
“An ex-student came in to talk about Darryl, and he ended up staying on to talk to the boys here now, relating those experiences to them.”
A memorial service will be held at Horizon Tn2 in the TN2 Community Centre off Greggs Wood Road in Sherwood on Friday February 24 from 1pm.
“That’s why we will be holding a memorial in his memory here rather than in a church,” added Ms Corbett. “It’s somewhere where the boys feel safe and comfortable.
“We help them when they are going through a vulnerable period in their lives so they don’t feel excluded even if they are no longer in mainstream education. It’s a real family atmosphere.”
Mr Oung grew up in the East End of London and admitted that he became an accomplished boxer to protect his family from racist abuse.
He then joined the Royal Engineers aged 16 and spent 11 years in the army, where he also trained as a medical officer.
His horrific memories of serving on the Falkland Islands, clearing up after the conflict there in 1981, also stayed with him throughout his life.
He said: “I spent six months doing minefield fencing and construction work. I saw some horrible things and, even though the fighting had ended, soldiers were being seriously injured from mines and explosions.”
He was forced to leave the police force after suffering a spinal injury during a training exercise, after which he suffered from depression and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
“I wanted to find work that involved helping people because I knew that would help me too,” he said at the time. “My job now is worthwhile, full time and permanent – and it’s saved my life.”