My Dad, Harold Montague Freedman, was born on 12 March 1938 to Rosa and Joe Freedman. He was born at home at 2, Woodward Avenue, Hendon and was named Harold after his maternal grandfather, Harold Bosman, and Montague after his uncle, Montague Freedman, who was killed in action in the First World War.
Dad and his mother were evacuated to Berkhamsted during the Second World War. Dad went to Canberra kindergarten in Hendon, where he first met his friend, Alan Myers, over seventy years ago. He went briefly to Belmont School in Mill Hill before boarding at Stagenhoe Park School. His secondary education was at Clifton College, in Polack’s House, where he met up once again with Alan and they shared a study.
responsible for buying more men’s underwear than anyone in the world other than his counterpart at Bloomingdales
After he left school, he did his National Service in the RAF in Germany and then in 1958 started work at Marks & Spencer, where he worked for thirty years, starting in the stores and working his way up to Head Office in Baker Street as he progressed through the management ranks. At the peak of his career, he held the honour of being responsible for buying more men’s underwear than anyone in the world other than his counterpart at Bloomingdales in New York. After M&S, he worked for the College of Occupational Therapists and then spent the next few years until retirement working with Mum at Outstanding Services, the debt collection firm she had set up and grown from scratch.
So how did Mum and Dad meet? In March 1959, Dad was talking to a friend outside her house in Vivian Avenue, Hendon when Barbara Allison walked by on her way home. He was twenty and she eighteen. Barbara lived at number 19 Woodward Avenue and was well aware of the two boys that lived at number 2, the sons of the former Mayor of Hendon, Alderman Joe Freedman and his wife Rosa. He of course had no idea about the two young girls at the bottom of the street. Two weeks later, they were engaged and they married a year later on 20 March 1960, Mum’s twentieth birthday. Alan Myers was Dad’s best man. They were married for over fifty six years and Jacqui and I have been incredibly fortunate to have them as parents.
a quiet man who was happy with his life
We grew up in a warm, happy and harmonious family, with both our parents providing us with love, stability and encouragement in everything we did. When we got married, Jacqui to Simon and me to Gill, Dad welcomed Simon and Gill as if they were his own children.
Dad was a quiet man who was happy with his life. He did not like arguments and disagreements and simply would not enter into them. Dad absolutely loved his family and was never happier than when we were all together. We will all really miss Dad at our regular big family get togethers on high holy days, although the fond memories will live on.
Dad was immensely proud of all of Mum’s and our achievements and he was also thrilled to bits when his grandchildren, Dan, Emma, Ellie and Lucy came along. He loved them very much and took great pleasure in watching them grow up and build their own lives. It is particularly nice that he had the opportunity to celebrate Dan’s engagement to Alex and obviously a great pity that he will not be at their wedding in October. Despite Dad’s brother, Mike, being eight years younger than him, they were also very close and met every week for lunch, putting the world to rights. I know that Mike will miss Dad terribly.
Dad and Mum have also made many truly wonderful friends over the years, many of whom are here today. I cannot ever remember Dad falling out with anyone and, despite being notoriously undemonstrative, he was much loved by more people than he would have ever realised.
I would like to share a few memories of Dad. Those of you who knew him will, I am sure, recognise some of these:
• Dad had a very dry wit and found humour in almost any situation, regardless of whether it was appropriate or not. He would love to gently tease all those he was fondest of.
• He was a loyal supporter of the mighty Hendon Football Club, man and boy. He started going to Hendon matches after the war with his dad and I started going to matches with him and one of his closest friends, Clive Gates, when I was a boy.
• I have an abiding memory of Dad collecting and cataloguing a multitude of donated gifts in our dining room in preparation for running the tombola at the annual big Cancer Research Campaign function that he and Mum ran each year with a group of their friends on a committee they had all set up following the sudden death of Mum’s mother in 1962. The tombola at these events was a work of art, and so very exciting to me and Jacqui as children. That committee has been running for well over fifty years and has raised several million pounds for Cancer Research.
a talented sketcher of portraits
• Dad was a prolific doodler, and his doodles were mini works of art. He was a talented sketcher of portraits and had an excellent eye for design. If I think of any scrap of paper left lying around the house, it would have been covered with intricately drawn faces.
• Dad was also legendarily tone deaf, or so he claimed. We would regularly catch him humming along to music, in key, but he nevertheless steadfastly maintained that he could not hear the music and only recognised the rhythm or the words. He would, though, admit to really enjoying Tom Lehrer, Gerard Hoffnung, Flanders & Swann and Gilbert & Sullivan.
• Dad was a lifelong avid collector; of stamps, coins, paperweights and matchboxes. We are going to have a lot of sorting out to do….
• He always really relished his food and could recite the full menu at a range of his favourite restaurants. He would never pass up a good minestrone soup. He also really enjoyed cooking and, at one time, had been keen to open a hotel and restaurant. I think Mum is mightily relieved that he did not actually follow through on that one.
• Dad had a great general knowledge and loved watching TV quizzes, even going so far as to star in Jeopardy, where he eventually lost out on the pop music round. There’s that tone deafness again….
• He and Mum loved their many holidays and Jacqui and I have many wonderful childhood memories of idyllic times in Malta and Rustington, usually with family and friends, and later on, family holidays in their flat in Spain when we had our own children.
• Mum and Dad loved going to the casino when we were growing up, and their regular trips to Crockfords, the Palm Beach and Curzon House seemed incredibly glamorous to me when I was a teenager. I soon saw past the glamour when I lost all my money in five minutes on my first trip to Crockfords for my eighteenth birthday. I am relieved to say that the allure wore off for them too soon afterwards.
• Dad has always enjoyed playing games, whether endless rounds of Klabberjass with Clive, or Tetris and WordPop on his iPod against himself in later years.
• He loved watching all types of sport on television but particularly rugby, football and cricket. It was a particular pleasure for him when Dan, Emma and Simon would come round to watch a big match with him.
they bred Italian Greyhounds
• Dad and Mum adored dogs. When Jacqui and I were children, they bred Italian Greyhounds. More recently, Champers, Snowy and then Pickle have been a major part of their lives and have given them both enormous pleasure and comfort.
• Finally, there was Dad’s singlemindedness when, for years, he refused to buy new clothes when the old ones were perfectly serviceable. A particular memory I have, is of him insisting on wearing his grandfather’s yellow towelling swimming trunks on our holidays abroad for years and years until they virtually fell apart.
Dad had more than his fair share of illnesses over the years but, until the last nine months or so, always managed to bounce back from them with Mum’s devoted and unwavering support. These last few months were very hard for them both and it is a comfort to know that he did not suffer in his final illness, passing peacefully away with his family at his bedside. Dad will be greatly missed by more people than he will know, but by none more so than Mum and his immediate family. He will leave a big hole in my life and it is hard to put into words what he meant to me. Just to say that I loved him very much.