Selwyn Stitcher

Selwyn Stitcher

Born
09 September 1939
Weymouth, United Kingdom
Died
16 November 2023
Barnet, United Kingdom
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Words by
Karen Goodman daughter

I confess I feel rather lost. Dad may have been a quiet man, but his presence in my life, especially over the last few years has been a constant reassurance. I am so used to him padding around our home when he stayed with us. Over the last few days since Dad passed away all his children and grandchildren have flown in from around the world; Israel, North America and western Canada and we have all been together, mainly in my home.

I hear a sound upstairs in the room he often stayed in and I am waiting for him to slowly emerge downstairs and join us around the table where we are noisily chatting about things. When my niece Shoshana flew in early on Friday morning with Dad’s youngest great grand daughter, who he had been lucky enough to meet a few months ago, my immediate instinct was to want to shout up to Dad come down to see Maya, she is just so cute and smiley. Then I stop and realise that is why she is here, to honour my father’s memory of what he and my mother built together. It feels inconceivable that he has gone and that he will not sit at our kitchen table wearing borrowed dressing gowns as he never remembered to bring his own, discussing the week’s events over Saturday morning papers. Then chatting about things he still wanted to do and places he wanted to visit. He had a thirst for doing new things and to be busy and not to waste the precious time he had left.

always trying to seek out the joy in life

The issue was that he may have had ideas about what he wanted to do, but he was hopeless in its execution. So he would ring me or one of my brothers for advice, or rather, “Can you please help me sort this out?”. He was always amazed at how quickly and efficiently, particularly my husband Andy could sort and find things. Quite honestly so am I. He was always very grateful for help booking tickets but frustrated that it always took him SO long to try and do it himself. The fact that he was so open to trying to adjust to a new life without Mum is a big testament to his tenacity, and sometimes bloody-minded character, but he was always trying to seek out the joy in life.

For almost sixty years he was very happily married to Mum and she was definitely the leading force in the relationship. He was not allowed anywhere near the kitchen because he might make a mess. She did the cooking and a lot of the home chores and he was allowed to help clear up and stack the dishwasher, but not to make a mess.

When Mum became ill, and as you all know, passed away only eight short months ago, Dad had to make huge adjustments in his life. He had hardly been allowed to make a cup of tea, he had to learn to run a fair size house and feed himself. Obviously, Janine and I fed him a lot and he had periods when he stayed with us for various time spans but he had to learn at the young age of eighty something how to survive on his own as well. It is no mean feat when you have never had to do these things your whole life, and he tried so hard to embrace this new chapter. We all received daily calls asking us what he should do with a mushroom or an egg; and he was always happy and surprised when something vaguely edible emerged. He loved his food and had a huge appetite, even when he was not well you could not stop him eating. I have no idea where he put it all.

On his last birthday in September, we took a beautiful house on the East Sussex coast for the hottest weekend of the year. We went to a fantastic restaurant to celebrate. I was astounded at the amount he ate, yet remained so slim. He was always happy for someone to feed him and anyone who has ever been to one of our large family get togethers knows that when we got to the various desserts on offer there was no point asking him what he wanted as the answer was always just “Yes”, which meant a bit of everything. I should have known that at the hospital on Wednesday evening when he hardly touched his meal that that was a sign that he was gravely unwell.

the kindest, sweetest man and a wonderful gentleman and the nicest, most generous boss

His passing away came quite suddenly and peacefully. As most of you know he was unwell with lung cancer for the last few years but thanks to amazing new drugs he had, until very recently, managed to retain full quality of life. As a pharmacist, probably one of the proudest things he did with his life, to be treated with such clever, advanced and expensive drugs was a constant source of pleasure to him. Throughout his long career he helped people feel and get better with his daily work. When he had the shop in Hoddesdon, everyone in the local area knew him. I contacted two of the ladies, both now well into their eighties, who worked for him, to tell them he passed away. One said she was so sorry to hear about Dad and that he was the kindest, sweetest man and a wonderful gentleman and the nicest, most generous boss that she could have asked for. Pam had worked for the previous owner of the pharmacy and she continued with Dad for the whole thirty years he owned the shop, which says a lot.

the quiet man

While we were growing up, Dad was always the quiet man. He was the bread winner and worked long hours weekdays and weekends. He was quiet and mild mannered and once I got married and moved out, if I phoned the house and he picked up the call, he would say hello and then immediately pass the phone to Mum who probably had her hand out waiting. Quite honestly, it was only when Mum became unwell during Covid with her own cancer, that I got to understand my father better and on a deeper level. It has been an honour to get to know him properly. I found out I had a deeply intelligent man as a father who was very interested in what was going on in the world. He loved animals; we always had cats in our childhood home and as many of you know my home is a bit of a zoo with three cats and a dog. Marmite, our dog, was his biggest fan, which was mutual. Whenever they saw each other, a ritualistic dance would ensue, mainly by the dog wagging her tail and shaking her behind, but Dad would mimic this and the unfolding dance was always a constant source of amusement. I will definitely miss that, and Marmite will forever be looking for her best friend. Dad loved dancing and had real rhythm and style. A special memory was him at Orli’s wedding this summer where he out-danced all the other guests.

Being a pharmacist was always a core part of his identity

He was not scared in recent years of showing his emotions, which he had not been able to express during his youth. He was born during the first few days of the Second World War in 1939 and spent almost all his early years away from family and home with his twin brother Cyril at a nursery in a boarding school near Aldershot. They were brought back to London after the war to join their elder brother Paul who had stayed in London with their parents. Dad was a very shy and mild mannered man, much like his Father, and was unwillingly expected to stand outside his parents’ ladieswear business encouraging customers into the shop. He did well at school and moved mid secondary school from Upton House to the local grammar school, Grocers in Hackney. This is where he met his oldest friend Neil, who unfortunately died only a few weeks ago. Dad was the first in his family to get a professional qualification, something he was justifiably very proud of as he found studying difficult. Being a pharmacist was always a core part of his identity. One of his long held treasures was a sizeable collection of beautiful display perfume bottles that he had collated over the years. If you ever sat in their lounge in Edgware, you would have seen them.

It was whilst studying at Chelsea College that he signed up for a tour of Israel, which led him to meet my mother who had also signed up via a last minute connection through her cousin. It only seems a few weeks ago since I was standing here talking about Mum and the wonderful family she created and all that equally applies to my Dad.

He rarely lost his temper, though occasionally when we were young chased us up the stairs to bed. When Mum was annoyed with us she often said, ‘Wait until your Father gets home,’ as a threat. We were SO scared. Not. The only time I remember having a disagreement with him was when I was learning to drive and we had some altercation in the car about my driving. I don’t think he took me again. Andrew, my brother, went out with me after that I think.

Music moved him

Dad loved to go to the theatre and classical music concerts. He played the cello when he was at school and even though he was not apparently very good they did let him in the orchestra. Music moved him. In fact he told my brother Andrew that the first time he ever cried as an adult was when he went to Berlin to hear Andrew singing in a choir which moved him to tears. After that he found it more difficult to not cry when hearing music. The tears would flow when he heard my daughter Jessica play the piano and sing, and especially if he heard music that he linked to Mum. West Side Story was the first record he bought Mum, and it was difficult for him to regain his composure once it started. Mischa, my younger daughter was lucky enough to take him to her first ever classical concert at the South Bank only last weekend. It was an evening they both thoroughly enjoyed, and Mischa will always treasure.

Dad loved gardens and gardening; especially Kew Gardens, which was a shared passion with my Mother. He was incredibly proud when Rina had work experience at Kew. Even when visiting Andrew in Boston, he would put himself to work pruning their plants.

He loved spending time finding and sharing common interests with his seven granddaughters and was always interested in their studies and lives, especially if there was a pharmaceutical connection. With Lara discussing how drugs actually work; with Orli what drugs he and Mum were taking; and with Dina discovering his artistic side whilst painting together.

After Mum died, Dad had a sort of bucket list of things he wanted to do, including Rob treating him to his first ever premiership football match, where apparently, he enjoyed the stadium atmosphere more than the actual football. Sadly, he never made it to Lords for cricket.

My Dad was a lovely man who was a vital part of our loving family when growing up, and in later life he was the ever present rock supporting my Mum when she was ill. I will miss him every day; his cheeky smile, his funny kitchen antics, his love for life. I am imagining you and Mum watching over us together, and that thought brings me comfort. I love you Dad xxx.