This is on behalf of Graham and I and our wider families.
If I had to think of three words to describe our Dad, I think they would be organised, stubborn and devoted.
Organised. Everything was planned, thoroughly researched, and in most cases written down, timed to perfection. Everything from meal times, with cooking times precisely planned with military precision, through to driving routes through Europe and detailed holiday itineraries.
He was so organised and insistent that he knew how he wanted everything done, that if you were less charitable, you could almost describe him as being stubborn.
He had a plan for everything
When asked about their routine, both Mum and Dad’s response was usually, “We don’t have a routine.” But woe betide anyone who was late, or the consequences if he did not have his morning coffee at eleven o’clock. Even in his last days the carers knew not to give Mum lunch until it was twelve thirty.
He had a plan for everything. He told me, “Always keep a kippah in your jacket pocket, you never know if you have to go to a funeral at short notice.”
Which brings us to devoted. He was Mum’s principal carer for very many years, and was resistant to accepting help unless absolutely necessary, being stubbornly independent. Even forgoing his own independence to be sure she was looked after in the way he knew she wanted.
Dad was born in 1933 and lived around the East End. He had an uncle, Oscar Baumgardt who was a professional photographer in Commercial Road who had a photo of Dad on a table in the window as an advert. Mum’s mum, my Nana used to walk past it thinking what a beautiful child, without realising he would be her future son-in-law.
After evacuating to Suffolk during the war with his sister Lillian and returning home thereafter, he left school at fifteen or sixteen and went to work for his father’s garment manufacturing business.
He learned to drive at sixteen, and was still driving to the end, admittedly less, but still driving. He loved driving as it gave him independence. The day he passed his driving test his father had him drive a load of samples across London. He worked for his father for several years often having to ask for his wages, otherwise he would not get paid, and then being paid in cash from a roll of notes in his father’s pocket.
obsessive interest in the weather
He served his National Service in the Royal Air Force, being deployed to the Royal Observer Corps, which might have explained his slightly obsessive interest in the weather. If you said it’s a bit chilly out, his response would be something like, “Yes the wind has come round from the North. The pressure has risen to one tho usand and forty millibars due to the anticyclone over the Azores.”
Dad met Mum at a dance in the Empire Ballrooms on Tottenham Court Road (now Spearmint Rhino if anyone knows it). He scratched her phone number on the inside of his cigarette case. She thought she would never see him again but he called her and they started dating.
They married in 1957 and lived in Cissbury Ring, Woodside Park. On their wedding night in December they went back to a one bar gas fire heated bedroom and the next day they went out to spend their wedding present cash on an electric blanket. It obviously helped because Graham arrived in 1960 and I arrived in 1962.
He found a passion in office furniture design
Around that time he left his father’s business and much to the shock of his family became ‘employed’, selling Dexion racking for many years. He found a passion in office furniture design later in his career when moving to Herman Miller in 1975 and stayed there to his retirement at sixty five. He loved his work and what he lacked in formal educational qualifications, he more than made up for in certifications and learning about people and organisational psychology. He was always happy to retell a story or anecdote from his experiences.
He was a keen amateur tennis player, being an aficionado of Slazenger rackets and green flash tennis shoes. The time taken to play every weekend was of course never an issue with Mum.
He filled his retirement with cultural days out with Mum and their friends; taking their five grandchildren out to museums; encouraging and enjoying their visits; playing in the garden and all learning how to use computers together, playing Half-Life and Myst together on his computer and reading through the guides.
Anyone who received a birthday card from him in the last twenty years will have seen his IT skills and possibly several copyright breaches as he printed his own birthday cards.
always there with his still and video cameras to capture those family moments
He was always there with his still and video cameras to capture those family moments, making hours of tapes of the grandchildren’s school events and CCF parades. Taking time to play tennis with them and discussing serving techniques. Although not really the most comfortable person with babies, he loved seeing the grandchildren and his great granddaughter Lyra.
Our children and his grandchildren described him as ready and willing to share words of wisdom, advice and help whenever he could, being kind-hearted and inspirational, and they remembered his life lessons, showing them the importance of keeping going no matter what seems to stand in front of you. He had real pride in all his family.
He was always up to date with the news. Even two weeks before he became ill, he told us about a bus fire in Wimbledon that we did not know about.
When Mum became confused and developed Alzheimer’s his organisation and devotion came to the fore. Stubbornness was never far behind when things did not go to plan, but the plan was all set up to run an efficient system, to be sure Mum was looked after in the best way possible. Very sadly Mum is too incapacitated to be here, but mercifully perhaps also to understand what has happened. She is however comfortable and well looked after.
Marion will always be my first consideration
When Dad became ill last week he was very clear that he knew his time was up and did not want any intervention, but only wanted to go home to be with Mum at the end. In searching for a few documents this week I found his wedding speech, in which he said, “Marion will always be my first consideration and I will always love her and cherish her.”
He had his plan, he was stubbornly going to stick to it to keep his word and his devotion to the very end.
I know Mum will miss him, as will we all.