A couple of Fridays ago we said goodbye to Grandpa. He passed away in his sleep on Boxing Day, as graceful in death as in life.
He was a true gentleman. A man of integrity who lived life to the absolute fullest. The man who inspired me and my imagination as a child and turned the world in to a magical place of wonder.
He was a mountaineer and held the record for the fastest ascent and descent of the Matterhorn in under 2 and a half hours. He was a young adventurer and drove back from Africa across the Sahara shooting animals for food. He was a devoted husband to Grandma and together they travelled the world and created a family of 5 children and 15 grandchildren. He was a civil engineer and established Shepherd Hill’s HQ in a beautiful Elizabethan manor house fondly known as ‘The Offices’, built the Medway bridge and invented a sea defense system in Jersey for which he met the Queen. He was a photographer capturing a life in Leica, only the best.
But most of all he was kind, generous and treated people with love and respect.
I am so very fortunate to have known such a good man. Even luckier to have loved, respected and admired him as my Grandpa.
I wrote and read a small tribute at the funeral service that was held to honor him and to say goodbye and I’d really love to share how much we all loved him.
Grandpa, The Perfect Gentleman
You were a Grandpa for 40 years to 15 grandchildren and a Great Grandpa for 5 years to 4 great-grandchildren.
Never without your jacket, even when you went to dig in the garden, and your Leica camera over your shoulder. In the early days it was two Leica cameras round your neck, one for black and white and one for colour photographs.
You were always building something. Bridges, dams, flats at The Offices, a house at the bottom of the garden, ponds, a swimming pool. This was you in your element.
I loved Grandma sending me to your offices to get you for dinner. I sat in the big chair waiting for you to finish whatever you were writing in your pencil perfect handwriting. We’d walk through The Offices to close them for the night and on the way home you always had something to show me – a bird’s nest, sometimes it had eggs in it, mulberries from the tree, the best conkers in Hillingdon, we’d pick an apple or collect pinecones. You inspired in us a love of nature.
We so loved going up in to the loft at your home, 20 Vine Lane, to play table tennis with you or to go on a treasure hunt amongst your travel artefacts. The crocodile skin transported us to the Nile where we pretended you wrestled with that very crocodile and saved a man from his death; the leopard mask took us to the African Bush as it pounced at you mid-air; snow shoes and ice picks took us to the mountains where we saw you tumbling down Ben Nevis. To us you were a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond.
Sometimes these adventures would spill in to real life. One of your party tricks was getting us lost in the Triodos mountains; and we’d go searching for flamingos and have to push a sinking jeep out of the mud flats; or whilst out for a gentle stroll find ourselves scrambling upwards. This was your nature.
Over the last decade or so it was a privilege to get to know you as an adult and ask you what you thought about the big questions, to which you always had a simple, practical answer. And I loved learning the important arts from you, like how to prepare the perfect avocado pear.
I asked you why The Offices had such a great atmosphere, apart from the obvious that they were designed so beautifully. You said it was because everyone there loved what he did and was very good at it and I’ve been inspired to put this in to my own working life.
I witnessed that mastering your craft is a life long love.
I respected that you never spoke ill of anyone and this is something I aspire to.
I loved that you were such a good husband to Grandma. You made such a handsome couple and enjoyed life together to the full. The world felt a better place walking out in it with you.
We all have so much to be grateful to you for. Thank you for your love of life so generously shared. For your acceptance, gentleness, softness and strength. For all the laughter, stories and great conversation.
Grandpa, you were the perfect gentleman.
Written and read by your Granddaughter.
4. January. 2013.