Son's tribute as big cat watcher David Spencer, 74, dies
Tributes have been paid to a man who made it his goal to prove the existence of big cats in Leicestershire and Rutland.
Retired De Montfort University textiles lecturer David Spencer set up Leicestershire and Rutland Panther Watch after a close encounter with a big cat in 1985.
He died last week, aged 74, after contracting pneumonia.
As well as Panther Watch, Mr Spencer was also well-known for his textiles work, and his book Knitting Technology, written in the 1980s, is widely recognised as the definitive text on the subject.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
He also served as a councillor in Melton.
After being diagnosed with Parkinson's in the late 1990s, Mr Spencer took early retirement, living with his wife, Shirley, in Knossington, on the Leicestershire-Rutland border.
Paying tribute yesterday, his son, Nigel Spencer, said many people would associate his father with Panther Watch.
"This was set up after he and I had a very close encounter in January 1985, outside his home," Nigel said.
"A black, leopard-type animal ran up to him in the gloom, before he shouted and it turned away with its tail brushing his face.
"He was so taken aback – having rubbished previous reports around the village – that he made it his goal to investigate and prove the cats' existence.
"He wrote many articles and appeared on countless TV and radio programmes and gave talks all over the Midlands."
Mr Spencer, who now runs the organisation, said: "One memorable occasion was a cruise in St Petersburg in early 2000 when the captain asked for his autograph as he had seen him on the Discovery Channel.
"He often had letters sent to his address simply as David Spencer, 'big cat hunter'.
"Of course, he wasn't a hunter and wanted no harm done to these magnificent creatures.
"In many ways, he helped to make the whole subject more respectable and encouraged people who previously would not have reported a sighting for fear of ridicule.
"Sadly, as the illness took hold, dad lost mobility and was confined to bed in the last month but still liked to hear about how the research on big cats in the UK was going."
Mr Spencer trained as a lecturer in knitting technology in the late 1960s, joining the then Leicester Polytechnic textile technology department, one of the biggest and most prestigious in the world.
He became a respected senior lecturer and an invigilator for the London City and Guilds.
He was also contributing editor of the global Knitting International trade magazine and was often used as an expert witness in copyright textile technology court cases.
He also served as a parish councillor and chaired the Melton area association of parish councils in the 1980s.
As well as his wife and son, he also leaves daughters Nicola and Viki.
Mr Spencer's funeral will take place at St Peter's Church, Knossington, on Friday, August 3.
Voluntary donations will go to Dove Cottage Day Hospice, Parkinson's UK and the Alzheimer's Society.
Viki will be running the Great North Run in September, to raise money for Parkinson's research in her father's memory.
To donate, visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/davidsangels3