During the early 1990s one of the many things that Eric did was to write a series of enjoyable, and memorable, articles for Ickenham Church News called Portraits From The Pews. It is only fitting that the following tribute to him should be written by his family and delivered magnificently, in church, by his actor son Simon. It has been amended slightly for ICN. Eric also rewrote the St Giles’ Church Guidebook and provided us with our first modern, coloured, version.
On 5th January St Giles’ Church overflowed with those who had come to participate in the Service of Thanksgiving for Eric’s life and to sustain his family with their love. The overflow spilled into the prepared church hall where an audio relay had been arranged. Even the Hall could not seat everyone or provide sufficient hymnbooks. What a tribute to such a gentle man. Although we say goodbye to him he will be remembered with thanks and great affection.
At the New Year Vyners Swing Band Concert there was huge applause when Perry Parsons announced that, in memory of Eric, the Band would play Stand By Me. As Perry said, “It’s because he was always there for us.” Perry, with two other musicians, played the central trumpet ‘solo’.
Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, friend – Eulogy to Eric
All of us remember Eric as a caring, friendly, selfless, fellow. He was such a considerate man who didn’t take sides. He was foremost a devoted and loving husband to Carola, or Carrie, as she is known to many of us.
His 78 years on this earth began in Maidstone, Kent, where he and his sister Audrey grew up with their mother within the ‘Garden of England’. His own father died when Eric was only seven. A period away from home at a boy's school plugged a part of this hole, and his mother and sister ably filled the remainder.
His career began in Public Health. Eric became a Sanitary Inspector and, not long after qualifying he applied for, and saw himself installed in, the Empire's Colony of Nigeria, as a District Health Officer. There are many stories from this period that have fascinated family and friends over the years, as well as tales of his period of National Service in the RAF.
H J Heinz was to be his next employer. This production facility was based down the A40 in Harlesden and Eric became a member of its Quality Control team overseeing the 57 Varieties. He liked his work at Heinz; indeed he stayed with the firm a total of 31 years before retiring early, as Head of Consumer Services at Hayes Park, at the age of sixty.
To his four sons he was always ‘our Dad’; once again a devoted and loving figure who was strong in character and yet gentle in spirit. His basic, traditional, and honest, values were practiced throughout his many years of parenthood. He became a father in 1958 and was the proudest, most pleased, man to share with his wife their firstborn son Timothy. After a period of readjustment to their lives another son was born, and named Nicholas. Later two bonny sons were to be joined by a third called John and, after a final try for a sister, Simon was delivered into the world.
The boys were blessed to have been given wonderful childhoods. What a handful! Looking after four very active sons must have been very demanding. Eric would return from the office to what was quite a different environment. He was allowed a short period for adjustment - a cup of tea and the news, which, if he was lucky, might have lasted for ten minutes. Then it would be bath times, games, and stories in bed. Ghost chases on the landing with upturned dressing gowns, or hide and seek that went on to become cricket in the Park, croquet, or badminton, on the lawn. Learning to ride bicycles and play simple ball games developed into motorcycling and team sports. Eric always found both the interest and time to support each son in varied and individual activities. How fortunate they were to have been given such balanced and stable childhoods from a father ‘full of beans’!
Because of the transitions from school to work, and girlfriends to weddings, it has been many years since the family home in the Grove has been fully occupied. Latterly, families with grandchildren were an integral part of the lives of Eric and Carrie.
This is the Eric that some of you will remember. For many more of you, there are other sides to him that you may recall. It was a major challenge to piece together the incredible life that he spent in service to the wider community.
Both Eric and Carrie came to Ickenham in 1957. For what was nearly 50 years Eric had been a community man. Of course the earlier years were filled with parenting, schools, and scouting. As the children grew up he filled his life outside of the family with many interests. Being a religious man who had been touched by a vision, he was much involved with St Giles’ Church, and gave generously of his time and talents to its organisation, and also in serving roles. The sheer numbers gathered in church at his memorial service would surely have humbled him. Everyone was shocked by his sudden departure from such an extraordinarily full life, when he still had a lot more to do, and so much more to give.
Eric was very energetic with a voracious appetite for learning. He was a significantly self-taught man who would always take the time to look up, or investigate, anything that was of interest to him. Carrie will testify that some of these interests became obsessions. He was a man of many committees, societies, associations, and clubs. The following is a list of some.
School PTAs, Scouts social committee, Christian Aid, Horticultural society, Ickenham Residents’ Association, The Middlesex or more formally the Hillingdon Show Society, St Giles’ youth club, St Giles’ Church and Ickenham Church News, Wayfarers and Swakeleys Tennis Clubs, The Anti-Warner Theme Park Movement, Ickenham Art Society, U3A, Probus, Uxbridge RAFA, Michael Sobel House, and the Compass Theatre.
Eric was not a man to sit by and just enjoy being part of a group. He was almost addicted to filling his time doing good for some cause or other. He was a great administrator with modest leadership qualities. He could be influenced, and yet would also do his best to influence those around him. He was, in his words, a bit of a soft touch when it came to volunteering for mostly "thankless" roles, which will have made such a difference to so many.
He was a great communicator. He would talk to almost anyone. One of his recent encounters with a ‘complete stranger’ was with Harrison Ford in Eton. "Excuse me Sir but you don't know who I am do you?" replied a courteous Mr. Ford, to which Eric could only say, "Should I?" He would talk to any audience small or large that was willing to listen. He was also quite capable of addressing those who perhaps did not want to listen.
An actor's life was not for him although he did indulge Ickenham in several major productions including the Pageant of St Giles, the Sonne et Lumiere at Swakeleys House, and his beloved Dickens showcase.
His passing will mean many different things to each of us. Mercifully there can have been no suffering as the fatal heart attack was extreme. As he fell to the floor his spirit will have risen to another level where he will have found peace.
DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED.
Third Monday of each month. St Giles’ Church Hall, 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and pastoral visitors. The next meeting is Monday 20th February (also Monday 20th March). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970), if you would like to talk to someone first.
ICKENHAM GOOD NEIGHBOUR SCHEME
The Ickenham Good Neighbour Scheme exists to serve the whole of Ickenham. We’re here to assist in an emergency. If you need help, the daytime contact numbers are: 01895 633020 or 01895 235061.