Remembering past president James Ernest Fretwell

CIBSE expresses its sadness at the passing of CIBSE Past President James Ernest Fretwell

James ‘Jim’ Ernest Fretwell was born in Stratford, East London, on 21 October 1933, one of four siblings and the eldest son. He attended Ilford Grammar School and South West Essex Technical College, before starting his career working for the family business – The Fretwell Heating Company.

In 1952, Jim joined Sulzer Bros, where he trained as a design project engineer, becoming a member of the Sulzer management team in 1964 and sales director in 1983. He studied at night school to achieve the qualification of Chartered Engineer while working full-time. During his time at Sulzer, he was associated with projects for hospitals, airports, schools, public buildings, offices and business development, in the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

He was appointed to the board of Sulzer Infra (UK) in 1987 before taking early retirement in May 1992.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, W E Fretwell, who was President of CIBSE in 1935, Jim became a CIBSE Fellow. He was the first board member of the Building Services Publication to be elected chairman, and has served on numerous IHVE and CIBSE committees, as well as on the CIBSE Council.

He was elected CIBSE President in 1999 and guided the Institute into the new millennium. He was a member of the Institute of Management and a founder member of the District Heating Association.

Aside from his career, Jim’s two great passions were his family and Freemasonry. Jim married Jean in July 1955, and they had 2 children, Laurence and Susan. He adored his children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

When not spending quality time with his family, he was an active Freemason raising money for numerous charities, including the Friends of Oak View School, a school for children with special educational needs. Jim served as Chairman of the Association of Friends of Oak View School, and in 2012, following rigorous fundraising presented the school with a Sunshine Coach for trips out. This masonic charity work, and the association with The Friends of Oak View School continued throughout his retirement and up until his passing.