I’m off to Bournemouth today, to attend the funeral of a dear friend.
Fred was the father of my best friend, Linda, who died when we were both sixteen (I’ve written about Linda previously here), and who I have known since I was five years old.
I was very honoured when Fred’s wife, Doris, asked me to write a eulogy for Fred’s funeral, and as I wanted to write a tribute here to one of the most quirky and entertaining people I’ve ever known, for posterity’s sake, what better than a copy of that eulogy, which will be read out at the service today (not by me, however – I’m afraid I’m leaving the public speaking to the ‘humanist celebrant’: Fred was a determined agnostic. Or atheist. Not sure which. Didn’t believe in religion, anyway.
Fred S***** was one of my favourite people in the world. There were many things I liked and admired about Fred, but I think my favourite was that he was never afraid to say exactly what he thought. And I’m sure that everybody here today will remember that Fred didn’t suffer fools gladly, so quite often his outspoken opinions would cause a ripple of amusement or shock amongst his audience, and no doubt some embarrassment for Doris.
I first encountered Fred some 40 years ago, when I was five, as he was my best friend Linda’s dad. I remember him making us shriek with laughter with silly rhymes, and telling us all types of tall stories that I was quite convinced at the time were true.
Fred is also one of the most knowledgable people – his thirst for knowledge and interest in the world around him never waned, even on the last occasion I saw him a couple of months ago, he had a pile of books on the go.
It would be wrong to write this without mentioning the adversity Fred faced during his life. As well as battling his ill-health for many years, Fred and Doris suffered the loss of their daughter, Lin, at only 16. The strength, courage and fortitude they both showed on coping with this terrible event stands out as quite simply the bravest thing I have ever witnessed.
I kept in touch with Fred and Doris after Lin’s death, and at some point, they both became not just ‘my friend’s parents’, but my friends.
As time went by, I got married and had a son, and they both got on famously with Fred. Ashley, my husband, shared a love of astronomy with Fred, and whenever I took William, my son, with me to see them, Fred always found something to keep Will fascinated – often fossils, I recall.
One clear night recently, on holiday in Cyprus, Ashley and Will were lying in the garden looking up at the stars. I was reading and only had half an ear on their conversation. They were discussing whether or not a particular star was a planet, and couldn’t make up their minds. A brief silence ensued, and then Will said “Fred would know. “
“Yes”, agreed Ashley. “He would”.
The next day, we heard that Fred had died.
I’d like to think that he is up there amongst the stars and planets that he loved, and with his Lin again at last.
I’m not sure what Fred’s beliefs were about the afterlife (though I’m sure we can safely assume they were unconventional!). But wherever you are now, Fred, know that you will be greatly missed, and always remembered with a smile.