A WORLD-renowned skating coach who was associated with Richmond for over half a century is being mourned by locals and colleagues alike.

Arnold Gerschwiler OBE had lived in Ailsa Road, St Margarets, for 53 years and taught at Richmond Ice Rink from 1937 until its closure in 1992.

He died peacefully at St Anthony’s Hospital, Cheam, on August 22, and his funeral was on Wednesday at South West Middlesex Crematorium in Hanworth. His widow Violet has been receiving condolences from around the world.

Dennis Bird, historian of the National Ice Skating Association, said: "Arnold Gerschwiler was one of two Swiss brothers who made an enormous contribution to the success of British figure-skaters in international competition."

He was born in Arbon, Switzerland, in May 1914. His elder half-brother Jacques, also a skating instructor, settled in London and encouraged him to follow.

Mr Bird explains that Arnold Gerschwiler competed in the British Open Professional Championships in 1935 and 1936, but his true metier was as a teacher and he joined the staff at Richmond Ice Rink in 1937.

He was called up by the Swiss army for a year in 1939. He married Violet Blundell, a keen social skater, in August 1941.

During the war, he undertook fire watching duties and was at Richmond Ice Rink when a 2,000lb bomb fell in the engine room - fortunately, it did not explode.

In 1940, he gave lessons to an elderly man with a large moustache, who turned out to be Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of the RAF.

After the war, Mr Gerschwiler taught at Richmond in the summer and at Davos in Switzerland for part of the winter. In 1947 he coached his nephew Hans to victory in the European and world men’s championships and coached British champion Daphne Walker to second place in the women’s world event.

He inspired the institution of an important contribution, the Richmond International Trophy, which ran from 1949 to 1980 and was contested by many future world and Olympic champions.

He also taught the Czech skater Aja Vrzanova, world champion in 1949 and 1950. When she fled from her Communist homeland, the Gerschwilers took her into their home and she stayed a lifelong friend.

For many years, Arnold and his half-brother were engaged in friendly rivalry to coach the world’s top skaters.

Arnold saw one of his protegees win an Olympic title when Sjoukje Dijkstra won in Innsbruck in 1964. Among his British pupils were Valda Osborn, 1953 European title holder, and British champions Michael Booker and Patricia Dodd. John Curry later moved to London to benefit from his tuition.

Other celebrities taught by Mr Gerschwiler at Richmond reportedly included a young Princess Anne (who shared lessons with his two daughters) and film stars James Mason and Patricia Roc - Rank filmed sequences in The Wicked Lady and The Man Between at Richmond.

Mr Gerschwiler also nurtured local talent in Richmond, setting up children’s classes on Saturdays from 1949, which encouraged thousands to take up skating.

He was head coach at Richmond Ice Rink from 1938 and was made director in 1964. He was awarded the OBE in 1997.

Mr Gerschwiler retired when the ice rink closed in 1992. He and his wife took up bridge enthusiastically.

Arnold and Violet Gerschwiler remained happily married for over six decades. They celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary at the Roehampton Club in 2001, an occasion attended by many international stars of the skating world. The Queen sent a card of congratulations.

Mrs Gerschwiler said this week: “He loved living here. He once said that if he could choose anywhere in the world to live, it would be here.” Mr Bird added: “Arnold and Vi made their Twickenham home a by-word for hospitality. He always felt a duty towards his young hopefuls, encouraging them in self-discipline and determination. Many of them held him in great affection.” Mr Gerschwiler leaves two daughters, Stella and Claire, and four grandchildren.

The British Ice Teachers’ Association, on whose committee he served after the Second World War, said in a statement: “Arnold was a great role model to the sport of ice skating and will be greatly missed.” Richmond Ice Rink campaigner Richmond Meacock said: "He was an incredible, wonderful man. He was by far the most important person in international figure skating ever. He was responsible for England being the foremost figure skating nation in the world. He was internationally respected, admired and copied."

Mr Kenneth William Marshall, 76, of Whitton, died in West Middlesex Hospital on September 6. His funeral will take place in the South West Middlesex Crematorium, Hanworth, at 10am today (September 12). Father Peter Bustin will officiate.

Mrs Joan Irene Burden aged 78 of Isleworth, died in hospital on September 6. Her funeral will take place at the South West Middlesex Crematorium, Hanworth, at 2.45pm on Tuesday September 16. Rev Peter Myles will officiate.

Funeral arrangements by T H Sanders.