Louis Dightmaker

Louis Dightmaker

Born
29 August 1938
Stratford, East London, United Kingdom
Died
02 February 2024
Barkingside, Ilford, Essex, United Kingdom
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Words by
Derek Dightmaker, older brother, and by daughters Karen Kaye and Clare Sion

Louis was my younger brother, so I have known him all his life. He was named Louis after our grandfather on our mother’s side. I still find it hard to credit that my own little brother was also called Grandpa Louis.

I don’t want to tell you things you may already know about my brother. So I will tell you about an incident when he was about six years old. He surprised our mother on her birthday by putting a shop-bought birthday card under her pillow. Mum asked him where he got the money for the card. He told her “it was in a big box under the stairs”. He was referring to the old coin-in-the slot gas meter, which he had managed to open to get the cash.

Some years later he repaired our parents’ old alarm clock. He took it apart, put it back together and got it going, in spite of leaving out a few parts.

Flight Engineer with a commercial passenger airline

This was a hint of things to come because, after completing a five year apprenticeship with BEA (later becoming British Airways), at twenty one Louis became a Flight Engineer with a commercial passenger airline flying all over Europe.

In 1966 he joined the Ford Motor Company for whom he worked for twenty eight years. He progressed to becoming one of Ford’s engineering troubleshooters, visiting plants in twenty three countries. In his own words he, ”…went all around the world and other places besides!”.

His work included checking over the very first vehicle new to that country as it rolled off the assembly line, and they would need his approval before he gave clearance to start full production.

one of Ford’s engineering troubleshooters

In 2018 Louis wrote a booklet entitled, “A Collection of Memories from Louis D.” I would like to read a quote or two from it, using his words. He wrote, “I’m almost eighty now and I’m realistic enough to know there’s not a lot of time to do this”. He also wrote “Karen and Clare both have got brains that are approaching planet-size”. He talked about his “four amazing grandchildren”, and his “two fantastic daughters”.

Anyone who knows them knows they are a credit to him and his wife of forty nine years, Milly Marlene, who passed away in May 2013.

I am very, very proud of my brother, all that he achieved, and the way he lived his life.

My brother Louis was a rather special person.

***

Dad (By Karen)

Dad was born on 29 August 1938 at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Stratford, London, younger brother to Derek, some two and a half years older. They lived in East Ham with their parents, our Grandma and Grandpa, Tilly and Mick, until 1941, when they moved to South Harrow,  just in the nick of time as their house was bombed (completely flattened) just a few days after they moved out. The house in South Harrow was just a few doors away from their grandparents.

Grandpa Mick was away in the RAF during this time, and because of this, Dad, Derek and Grandma moved around a lot so that they were near to Grandpa each time he was based somewhere new. Locations included Blackpool, Chippenham (apparently a very haunted house) and Felixstowe. In 1942 they moved to Harrow and Dad started infants school.

In 1944 the family moved to Ruislip Gardens, with Northolt Aerodrome just over the railway at the back of their garden. This later became the Central Line. Dad and Derek were, by now, at Ruislip Gardens School, whilst their Mum worked in the sheds on the airfield, machining cannon parts for Lancaster Bombers.

In 1947 the family moved back to East Ham, and Grandpa was demobbed from the RAF in November of that year.

senior design draughtsman at Ilford Photographic Company

In 1951 Dad passed his eleven plus exam and transferred to Poplar Technical College of Engineering. More house moves followed, until the family moved to Manor Park in 1953, and then in 1954 another move to St John’s Road in East Ham.

Around this time, Dad replied to a British European Airways advert. Having aced the training he was posted to Heathrow Engineering Centre and DeHavilland Aircraft Company at Hatfield for a five year course. His perfect job, looking after Viscount, Ambassador and Dakota aircraft. However, the job was a long way from home in Ilford, so he decided to apply for a job at Ilford Limited as a draughtsman. He pretty much blagged his way into that role as he had no prior draughting experience but picked it up very quickly, and soon became a senior design draughtsman at Ilford Photographic Company for film production.

still missed all things aviation

Although his career was going well, Dad still missed all things aviation so applied for a job with a new small privately owned airline. This airline had five ancient Vickers Vikings and two new Vickers Viscount 707s. The advert was for experienced Viscount engineers and Dad fitted the bill. Needless to say he got the job and managed to get all the aircraft signed off as fully airworthy, which was quite an accomplishment.

Unfortunately, the airline went bust after a couple of years and Dad was now unemployed. Derek suggested that he go to the local Jewish Club with him (to cheer him up I expect), and so they went the next evening. The Club was in Balfour Road, Ilford, and there was a large crowd of young people, most of whom Dad knew. However, there was also a young lady there who he had not seen before, smartly dressed in a white, brown and black horizontally striped dress. He asked her for her name. She replied and said that it was her first visit. They chatted a lot about nothing in particular and at the end of the evening Dad offered her a lift home (all the way to Chingford). They exchanged phone numbers, and the rest is history.

They were married on 4 October 1964 at Beehive Lane Synagogue, and honeymooned in Jersey. Home was Mortlake Road in Ilford, before moving to a house in Redbridge, where we grew up.

thirty years at Ford

By now, Dad was an engineer at Ford Motor Company, a job that required that he travelled all over the world, for weeks at a time. Henry Ford’s son, who Dad met on a few occasions, wanted to offer him an immediate position within the existing management structure in Ford US, but Dad was happy at home and rejected his offer. Years passed, and finally realising that he could not keep up the sheer stress of spending weeks on end away from his young family, Dad persuaded his manager to let him take on four resident engineers who could fill his shoes, with Dad becoming Senior Resident Engineer. Now he only had to travel within the UK and occasional visits to Europe. Perfect. After thirty years at Ford, he accepted an offer of early retirement and his life became his own again.

he didn’t worry about anything

Dad was a unique person. Literally one in a million. He faced certain difficulties throughout his life because of his deformed left hand, but always found a way to overcome any such problem. In fact, something he used to say all the time was that he didn’t worry about anything. I think the only thing that he could not do for obvious reasons, and which he regretted, was to be able to play a musical instrument (other than the trombone), but he lived that dream through us, and I know he took a great deal of pride in our musical achievements, whether it was attending concerts or competitions that we were performing in, or just listening to us playing on our baby grand piano in our front room at home, and then later on listening to his grandchildren play their own instruments. Clare and I, together with our cousins Cheryl and Nicola (Hadley wasn’t around yet) spent hours giving “concerts” in our front room. Happy days. His love of music, whether classical or more modern, is a gift from him which I am truly glad I inherited, and passed down to my own children.

completely inappropriate jokes or stories

Dad had a wicked sense of humour, and in our daily phone calls he often told me completely inappropriate jokes or stories. I’m sure that those of you that knew him best would also have had the privilege of hearing these stories, many of which were sourced from his years travelling the world throughout his career, and they seemed to get more elaborate with each telling. Some of the greatest hits included witnessing the local delicacy of a colleague eating live monkey brains at a work dinner in South East Asia; being mistaken for the President of Ford Motor Company upon arrival in Indonesia (rather than the Resident Engineer of Ford Motor Company); and evading police arrest through an improvised disguise. His sense of humour and wit were sharp. The stories and jokes lessened in the past year or so but nevertheless his character and humour were always evident. He became more patient as he got older (he was very strict when we were growing up) and mellowed in many ways. When my Mum passed away I really didn’t know how or if Dad would manage on his own, but he did, and rather well.

His cooking ability was, shall we say, up and down. One of his less memorable meal attempts was an omelette, with added banana and lemon curd. Sounds revolting? Yes it was. It went in the bin. But we still laughed about that. He said it seemed like a good idea at the time.

excellent at DIY

Once an engineer, always an engineer, and Dad was excellent at DIY. He painted the outside of his bungalow a few months ago, and even a few days before he passed away, he spent a couple of days up a ladder outside, repairing the covered sideway. He was extremely stubborn and fiercely independent. Clare and I had to accept that he didn’t want us to cook for him (although we did) or shop for him (we tried to do that too).

Dad was a member of the indoor bowls club and was on the management team until about a year ago when this became too much for him. He was passionate about this hobby, and took his responsibilities very earnestly. Bowls is a serious business.

Sadly, he was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm some years ago (a condition which his father also suffered from), and this was regularly measured to see if it had grown. In August last year it was considered to have reached a size where it could potentially burst at any moment, and it was therefore not safe for him to drive anymore. Whilst it was his decision to stop driving, it didn’t make the decision any easier and it was really from that moment on that his passion for life started to wane.

He saw it as the end of his independence as he could no longer just jump in the car and get himself somewhere. We tried to tell him that just because he couldn’t drive, didn’t mean that he couldn’t go anywhere by himself, but he just found that all too much to bear, and because he was Dad, he wouldn’t ask anyone to give him a lift. He recently bought a mobility scooter but wasn’t happy that it only did a top speed of eight miles per hour. He did threaten to tinker with it and increase the speed, but thankfully he didn’t do that.

always the person upon whom friends and family called for technical help and practical advice,

Dad would have done anything for anyone. In the past he was always the person upon whom friends and family called for technical help and practical advice, and it was hard to watch him become the person who was confused as to how something worked or, his favourite excuse, telling me that something ‘wasn’t working’ when in fact he had probably just forgotten which button to press. Growing up, he was my protector against the world. But in recent years the relationship was reversed and I found myself doing more and more for him, mainly paperwork, so much so that he referred to me as his secretary. I didn’t mind one bit. He did everything he could to give us a good childhood. It was now my turn to look after him.

As Derek has said, Dad loved and was so proud of his four grandchildren; Zoë, Matthew, Nathan and Oliver, and was so excited about the forthcoming addition to our family through his granddaughter Zoë. He welcomed his sons-in-law into the fold, all four of them 😊, as well as Mark, Caitlin and Rita. A lovely growing family.

a true heart of gold

Dad could be a difficult so and so, and whilst there were times that we argued when I was a teenager, in later years and certainly in the last few years, we never argued. I completely understood his humour and just ‘got him’. He frequently used humour as a defence mechanism, as I know a lot of you will realise. He had a true heart of gold; he was one in a million and I wouldn’t have changed him for the world. I will miss him forever. There is a huge Dad shaped hole in my heart. But I know he is reunited with my darling Mum which is really what he had wanted for the last few months, probably eating Mars Bars and drinking never ending cups of tea.

***

My Dad (by Clare)

People say that their dad is the best, but mine literally was to me. My Dad was; the best storyteller, the fixer of anything, knew everything, hugely intelligent, loved and cared for us fiercely, lover of cars, aeroplanes and nature, and was also so frustratingly stubborn and independent. He was the hero of my childhood and my latter years too.

Dad, you were so special to me and so were the memories we made.

Although you live in heaven now, those memories will never fade.

I bow my head in silence and remember you with so much love

and I know that you are up there watching from above.

Everyday is a struggle and nothing feels the same,

and my heart breaks a little more every time I hear your name.

You will always be remembered and time may heal my heart,

but a piece of me is missing since the day we had to part.

If heaven is for angels then I know that’s where you’ll be,

and I know you will be waiting when heaven calls for me.

Softly out of the shadows, there came a gentle call,

you took the hand G-d offered you and quietly left us all,

and although we cannot hold you we will never let you go,

because in our hearts you will live forever, because we love you so.