Alexander James Halfin

Alexander James Halfin

20 January 1941
Newquay Cornwall
09 July 2017
Hampstead Garden Suburb
Words by
Matthew Max Halfin son

Thank you for all your kind messages of love and support yesterday, they mean a huge amount to us and above all it is wonderful to hear reflected back from you many of the qualities that we feel made dad such a wonderful father, husband and ganpa.

Dad’s philosophy in life was that if you are kind, generous, trusting and positive, treating everyone with respect, although you may find some people who take advantage, ultimately your life and the life of those around you would be a richer, happier place. And remarkably that was exactly how he lived his life, to the letter. But as much as he was wonderfully soft and gentle he was also tough, something I only really came to fully appreciate in the last few years.

Underneath his gentle self was a stubborn determination to see things through no matter how challenging the people or circumstances on the way

Attracted by the prospect of doing something practical that contributed to society he was the first in his family to go to university and single-mindedly carved out a career for himself as a civil engineer. Throughout the turbulent economic cycles of the 1980s & 90s he worked formidably hard to hone his craft seeing him leave home most days before dawn for jobs and meetings on cold, muddy building sites across the country. He reaped the rewards becoming a partner in his practice and winning awards for his coal mines, sadly just as coal’s heydey was passing.

Underneath his gentle self was a stubborn determination to see things through no matter how challenging the people or circumstances on the way. I didn’t really appreciate this side of dad as a kid except indirectly through the perks – the best possible education, a beautiful home and being as well looked after as I could hope for. But in recent years it has been clear in his approach to any illness – from an unshakeable core of optimism and positivity tinged with sheer bloody mindedness he has – as cousin Simon likes to say -kept buggering on. Dad was a tower of strength to us both emotionally and physically. For someone of average height like myself he was as strong as an ox and could always be relied upon to open, fix, twist or build anything I was too feeble or impatient to tackle.

Dad shared many of his lovely qualities with Uncle Richard – dads brother who sadly passed away only a month ago. In particular as Simon beautifully put it, living their lives for others and giving of themselves and anything they had unthinkingly. However, sporting prowess was not one of them. If Uncle Richard was a sporting polymath Dad as far as I can tell showed zero interest in any sport until he and mum took up tennis in Thames Ditton and flirted with golf well into his 40s. For those who know me the apple has definitely not fallen far from that particular tree ….

As an engineer it is no surprise that dad was always immensely practical and methodical, something that at times infuriated the more creative types in the  family. He was a man’s man to the extent that he loved gadgets always investing in the latest cameras, had the best possible stocked toolshed you are likely to encounter, full of every tool imaginable, many of whose functions remain a mystery to this day. When he semi-retired he upgraded from a semi to a detached man cave where he set up his office for consultancy work and promptly filled it with all manner of essential stuff. Dad and I had many a bonding experience building things together whether it was lego, model railways and planes or remote controlled cars, or latterly flat packed furniture. The general flow was that after much initial excitement and preparation I would rapidly get impatient about how fiddly or difficult it was and get increasingly fractious, leaving dad to work thorough the tough bits with his patience and persistence – and nothing much has changed!

What did surprise us all was the burst of creativity which saw Alex the gentleman sculptor take the Thames Ditton and Hampstead Garden Suburb art worlds by storm. He had always had an eye for design with his choice of beautiful, intricate birthday cards and ornaments, even if this didn’t always extend to his fashion choices. He also single handedly propped up the finances of many a cultural institutions carrying round a wallet laden down with membership cards for every single art gallery, gardens and heritage site going but I for one was not prepared for his second career. For those of you at our wedding dad dazzled us with his designs for the table settings, inspired by the nature he loved and he went on to produce many of the beautiful, inventive and thoughtful works you can see around mum and dad’s house and garden and some of his family’s and friends’. Exhibiting gave him great pleasure, most recently in what was his final show at the HGS art fair where in spite of his illness he set up and managed his stand for the entire weekend.

Nothing, however, gave him greater pleasure I believe than the wondrous creations he made with his beloved grandsons Sol, who is here today, and Isaac. Dad was a truly wonderful father, husband and ganpa balancing mum’s and my more unpredictable moods with his constant calm, loving, positive nature whatever was going on for him. He leaves a wondrous legacy in all of our hearts – an indelible sense of what it really means to be a good man.