Shahrokh Vafadari obituary | Iran
My father, Shahrokh Vafadari, who died at the age of 89, was a prominent member of the Iranian Zoroastrian community in the UK.
After retiring from his job as a chemical engineer in 1992, he devoted himself to promoting the Zoroastrian faith and Iranian culture to anyone interested. He became an academic authority on the evolution of the Zoroastrian calendar and was chosen by Robert Winston as an advisor on Zoroastrianism for his 2005 television series The Story of God, escorting Winston to Iran for filming.
In memory of his eldest son, Martin, who died in 1992, Shahrokh also founded the Ferdowsi Trust Fund at a house in Ealing, west London, where he brought together Iranians, Zoroastrians and others to hear lectures on Persian history, music and art. and poetry. He welcomed Iranian refugees and asylum seekers into the house, offering them friendship and a sense of community, in recognition of the difficulties he faced upon arriving in the UK.
From his hometown of Kerman in southeastern Iran, Shahrokh was raised in a Zoroastrian priestly family, the youngest of five children born to Rustam, a merchant, and Tootee, a housewife. His mother died when he was 11, and he was sent to Tehran under the guardianship of his older brothers, where he attended Alborz College. At 16, he joined the Imperial Iranian Navy and ended up in Portsmouth as a Second Lieutenant on HMS Howe on a Royal Navy Officer Exchange Scheme. Once his contract ended in 1953, he moved to London, achieved A-levels and worked odd jobs, living frugally in a studio apartment in Earl’s Court, west London.
On his first Christmas day in London, he awoke with no food to eat and, finding the shops closed, began to wander further and further from home in search of somewhere open. By the time he arrived in Leicester Square, the police had begun to take an interest in his movements, which they considered suspicious, and they apprehended him. Once he was able to convince them that he was just hungry and had no idea about Christmas, they took him to their local train station, served him a full English breakfast and the have dismissed.
After these difficult early times, Shahrokh secured a place at Imperial College London to study for a degree in chemical engineering. When he took a master’s degree at the same institution, he gave himself a stomach ulcer and was admitted to St George’s Hospital. There, Anne Scamell treated him. They fell in love and married in 1963.
For 30 years Shahrokh then worked as a chemical engineer in the UK and overseas, with companies such as Shell and British Gas. It was after he retired in 1992 that he was able to devote his full attention to the study and dissemination of the Zoroastrian faith and Iranian culture.
He is survived by Anne, his children, Rebecca, Justin and I, and seven grandchildren.