Pavel Horváth: my Czech mate Denis Marston: my father-in-law Marc Lane-Martin: my research colleague Anna Darlington: my mother Eduardo Diaz: my American friend Richard Lawes: a friend Don Parks: a friend
A tribute written for his family at the time
of his funeral in Prague on 12 August 1994
Vee and I first met Pavel in a Greek restaurant in London on 21 September 1985. Vee and I last saw Pavel when we kissed him goodbye at the Royal Free Hospital in London on 30 July 1994 - just three days before he died. In the intervening nine years, he became a very, very special friend.
In his first letter to me, he wrote: "I am probably this world's worst letter writer". This was not far from the truth. Yet, with Pavel, every time we met it was as if we had last seen each other the previous day - he was always so warm and welcoming.
Over the years, we became closer and closer and, during his first two months in hospital, we spoke on the telephone almost every single day. I found that I could talk to him as I had not spoken to any other man because he was so sensitive and caring.
We did so much together and I have so many joyful memories of his friendship.
Pavel loved all forms of culture and, together with Tamara, we went to the opera at Smetanovo divadlo (the Smetana Theatre), the ballet at Národní divadlo (the National Theatre), and dance at Stavovské divadlo (the Estates Theatre). He really enjoyed art and together we visited many galleries, whether it was the Mánes exhibition hall round the corner from his flat in Prague or the National Gallery in London where we called the day before he went into hospital.
Whenever I was with Pavel, things happened. One morning we went to a demonstration in Staroměstské náměstí (the Old Town Square) and then afterwards just walked and talked in the pouring rain. One afternoon we jumped into the car - with the whole family - and went off to visit Vyšehrad. One evening he suddenly took us off with all the children to the Agharta jazz club.
Some of the things we did together were sorrowful, but brought us even closer together. One time he took me to Lidice, the village erased by the Germans because of the action of the parachutists who died in the church opposite his flat. One Sunday morning in November, we visited the graves of Jan Palach, then Franz Kafka, and finally his mother whom he always missed so much. Then, just weeks before he came to London for his operation, he drove me out to Terezin, the concentration camp where his mother was imprisoned before she was sent to Auschwitz.
Pavel was always so kind to me. Once he drove me all the way to Plzen where I was attending a congress and, on the way, we visited the boat that he and his friends were constructing over so many years. Another time he took me for a drink in 'U zlatého tygra" (At The Golden Tiger) and, when he learned that this was my first glass of beer, he drafted a special 'certificate' for me. His last gift to me was a splendid book on Prague house signs because he knew how interested I was in them.
Pavel had so many admirable qualities:
In one of his last letters to me, Pavel - after a visit to Geneva - wrote in November 1992: "I had some problems with my health. I hope that I will be all right in the future". It was not to be. After 14 weeks in the Royal Free Hospital - except for a release of just two days - he finally lost his long and brave fight.
I am truly heartbroken that I will never speak to him again and I will never see him again. I have lost the best friend that I ever had. I loved him and I miss him so much.
I treasure the afternoon we spent together at my favourite cafe in London the day before he went into hospital. I treasure the two sets of photographs that I took of him - at his request - during his time in hospital. I treasure all the wonderful times we spent together and all the happy memories I have of him.
Ahoj, Pavle, ahoj.
Pavel was a Czech doctor specialising in heart operations for sick children who spent two periods of secondment to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London.
In 1994, he had bone marrow transplants on 5 May and 29 June, but went into intensive care on 16 July and died on 2 August.
Pavel is buried in the Jewish cemetery in eastern Prague, close to the grave of the author Franz Kafka.
Oration at funeral in Chichester on 20 December 1995
It is an honour - but a sad one - to be asked to say a few words about Denis Marston. I was a late addition to his family when I married his daughter Vera, but over the years I came to know him well and admire him enormously.
Denis was born in Brighton in 1910. He had a difficult early life with both his mother and his father dying when he was young. However, his three older brothers ensured that he was able to stay on at school until he was 16.
Then Denis joined the Merchant Navy and set sail all around the world. He started as a deckhand on the P & 0 line and eventually graduated to Chief Purser.
He often joked about one particular incident during the war when he was in charge of catering on troop carrying ships. On one troublesome voyage, he was able to keep expenses down to almost a penny a head because all the soldiers were suffering from seasickness.
However, Denis never spoke about the commendation for brave conduct that he received from the Prime Minister Winston Churchill when his ship the SS "Alipore", was torpedoed and sunk in 1943 [see footnote].
After the war, Denis joined the then British European Airways as catering superintendent and continued his travels to Europe and the Middle East, only this time by air. It was during his time with BEA that he met the woman who was to be the love of his life, Ruby, and they married in 1954.
He inherited a ready-made family, which must have been a daunting proposition for a man who was by then in his middle forties and had been a free spirit. However, he proved to be a wonderful father to his daughters Mari and Vera and also to their brother Huw who sadly died of asthma in 1964 aged only 21.
Following his marriage, Denis brought the family down to live at Elmer Sands where they spent many happy years. However, work later forced the family to move back to London.
It was only after Denis's retirement that he and Ruby returned to live at Middleton on Sea. They were able to spend just six years enjoying this retirement together before Ruby died in 1982.
Denis's latter years were spent at Flax Mean in Felpham. Here he enjoyed feeding the ducks which lived on the large pond just outside his sitting room window.
He was a regular traveller around the village in his bright red vehicle for the disabled - or his "batmobile" as we called it - and a welcome visitor at the "Lobster Pot" cafe on the seafront.
He was delighted to see all his three grandsons, Martin, David and Richard, go to University. He was especially proud when this summer David graduated with First Class Honours and could not stop telling all those he met about this achievement.
Denis will be remembered by all of us as one of the last of the real English gentlemen. He will be remembered especially by Mari and Vera as the man who took them under his wing and loved and cared for them as a true father.
Although this oration was delivered by Roger, it was written by Vee about her step-father on behalf of herself and her twin sister. Denis died following an operation at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester.
The "Alipore", 5,273 gross tons, built 1920, was torpedoed and sunk by gunfire from the German submarine U.516 (captain Gerhard Wiebe) on 30 September 1942 while NE of Georgetown, British Guiana, in position 07.09N 54.23W while sailing independently from Alexandria and Cape Town to New York via Trinidad with a cargo of chrome ore and olive oil. The Master, Captain Ernest Lee, 68 crew and four gunners were towed in the ship's lifeboats to Georgetown by the fishing schooner "United Eagle". Ten crew were lost.
Funeral oration at the Carmelite Church,
Kensington Church Street, London
on 8 September 1997
Two years ago, together with my colleague Karen Turley, I recruited Marc to be a Research Assistant in the Research Department at the Communication Workers' Union which is the trade union representing the majority of staff in the Post Office and British Telecom. I was his head of department and he worked in the office next to me.
Two months ago, at the end of a working Wednesday, Marc said goodbye to me and left the office. Six hours later, he was murdered in what seems to have been an utterly senseless robbery. Like all of you, I cannot believe that I will not see him again and our hearts go out to his mother and sister and to all his relatives, friends and colleagues.
The Joint General Secretaries of the CWU, Tony Young and Derek Hodgson, have asked me to express their personal condolences. They and some other CWU colleagues are not able to be here this afternoon because they are attending the Trades Union Congress.
Marc was born in July 1966 and was just about to celebrate his 31st birthday when he was killed. Indeed, he had already arranged a picnic celebration in Kensington Gardens.
Marc was an exceptionally bright individual. He took his first degree - a BA in Economics - at Kingston University, spending a year of his studies at the University of Rennes in France. Consequently, he was a fluent French speaker. He then took a second degree - an MSc in Policy Studies - at the Queen Mary and Westfield College of the University of London.
Before taking his degrees, Marc spent two years working at the Inner London Education Authority before it was disbanded. After obtaining his degrees, he spent short spells as a finance worker at Camden Community Transport and a marketing consultant with Pat Mann Enterprises before in June 1995 he was appointed to work for the Communication Workers' Union.
Marc was thrilled to work for the union. My diary records that, when I called to offer him the job, he said: "You have no idea how happy you have made me".
He once asked me why we chose him from the 29 applicants for the post. I told him that, besides his obvious intelligence and warm personality, we were impressed by his sheer enthusiasm - and it is for this that I will most remember Marc.
Sometimes this enthusiasm caused him - and me - some problems, but it was always totally well intentioned. His most common expressions were: "How can I help?" and "I can do that". Whether it was preparing a complicated brief for pay negotiations or manning a stall at a conference or looking after foreign visitors at a weekend, Marc would do it, willingly and energetically.
I recall another of Marc's expressions which amused us in the department. Whenever anyone mentioned an organisation, he would say- "I've got a mate there". The attendance today is witness to the fact that Marc had friends everywhere and, since his death, even his mother has been surprised by the number of organisations with which he was involved and the number of people that he knew.
Marc's great passion was politics. He was a long standing and active member of the Labour Party. He loved campaigning, he helped in the May General Election, and he delighted in Labour's victory.
Marc's other great interest - closely allied to his politics - was the local community. He chaired the North Kensington Unemployed Centre Venture Community Association and indeed I understand that he had just attended a meeting of this body when he was killed.
In the CWU, we would like to commemorate Marc more substantively by initiating a community project whereby people who knew Marc could volunteer some of their time to assist the local community. If you would be willing to help us with this, please let us know.
Meanwhile, we all have our own personal memories of Marc. I will remember the large glasses, the red braces, and that Jungle Book tie. I will remember his enormous enthusiasm, his lovely sense of humour, and his very caring nature.
We miss you terribly Marc. Sleep well, my friend.
On 21 May 1998, at the Central Criminal Court in London an individual was convicted of robbery and manslaughter arising from the attack on Marc and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
On 27 July 1999, a cheque for £4,500 - collected by members of the CWU - was presented to Marc's former college, Queen Mary & Westfield, for the establishment of a bursary in his name.
Funeral oration at
Church of St Thomas More, Leicester
on 15 February 1999
Ever since Mum had a stroke almost 10 years ago, I have anticipated this moment and, now that the time is here, the occasion is still painful and poignant.
Mum was born as Anna Maria Romano - and names do not come more Italian than that - at home in Naples in southern Italy on 19 March 1920. From the beginning, her life was a tough one. It was a working class family in one of the poorest regions of Italy.
Then, when she was only six, her father died of pneumonia. She was the eldest of four children and, over the next 20 years, she bore a lot of the burden of running the home and looking after the family.
Mum was only two years old when Mussolini came to power, so the whole of her childhood and early adulthood was experienced under a Fascist regime. She was 19 when the Second World War began and, as a major port, Naples was a strategic target for bomber aircraft.
I remember her telling us that she was bombed by the British, the Americans and the Germans. It was the Royal Air Force that she hated the most because they took such time and care to concentrate on military targets that the raids lasted so much longer than the Americans or the Germans.
In 1946, my mother met my father on a beach in Naples. He was an RAF fighter pilot and he was in Italy as part of what he believed were the forces of liberation, but my mother called the forces of occupation. At the time, she was working in the British Officers Club in the city.
I suspect that this was the happiest certainly the most carefree - time of Mums life: she was young, she was healthy, and she really enjoyed meeting people from other countries. The photographs of her at that time show her to have been beautiful in almost a film actress sense. My Uncle John, who is here today, married Mum's sister Bianca and remembers how lovely and radiant Anna looked at that time.
Five months after meeting, my parents married in Naples. Six months later, they were living in austere and war-ravaged England. It was a cultural shock for my mother: she had never before been out of Italy and, at this time, there were few foreigners in England.
My parents soon settled in Manchester where they had three children: first, me Roger; then, two years later, my sister Silvia spelt the Italian way; and finally, after another four years, my brother Ralph who was born at home.
My parents' marriage was not a success and, when they separated, Mum won custody of the three children. She was a single mother in a foreign land who had never worked in this country. At the time of the initial separation, I was seven, Silvia was five, and Ralph was just 18 months. Over the next two decades, Mum never remarried or indeed had any other relationship. She simply devoted herself entirely to her three children.
For a long time, she worked as manageress of a dry cleaning shop - quaintly named "Silver Wings" - - and we lived behind and above the shop. It was opposite a large university hall of residence and Mum loved to meet people from all around the world and to talk to them as long as they were willing to remain in the shop. She was unusually light-skinned for an Italian and she was really amused when her customers guessed - almost invariably wrongly - from where she came.
We only had one holiday, when she took us to Italy to see her family, and she was frequently ill and on occasions in hospital. But we all felt protected and supported and valued and, above all, loved.
It is a remarkable tribute to her that this frail woman, who herself left school at 14, enabled each of her three children to obtain university degrees. Indeed each of us has, in the broadest sense, made education our career: me as a trade union researcher, Silvia as a primary school teacher, and Ralph as a university lecturer. We owe it all to her.
After she retired in 1980, Mum moved from Manchester to Leicester where she spent her remaining 18 years. Here she was able to be with Silvia, her husband, and their two children who lived in the city. She was so grateful to Silvia and her family for their protection and support.
Although, by this time, all her children were grown up and making their way in the world, Mum never stopped being there for us. When my first marriage broke up and I had custody of my four-year-old son Richard, she travelled down to London and lived with me for seven weeks until I could make child care arrangements. When Ralph had a long illness, she looked after him in her flat in Leicester.
And, over a period of many years, she spent an enormous amount of time looking after Silvia's two sons Matthew and Dominic. To her three grandchildren - whom she adored - she was always known by the Italian name "Nonna".
Almost 10 years ago, Mum suffered a stroke which virtually destroyed her ability to speak English. Although she wanted so much to be independent, eventually she had to be admitted to the residential care home at Brookside Court. When her condition deteriorated further, she entered Crown Hills nursing home and, for the last six months, she was a resident of Grey Ferrers nursing home.
On behalf of all the family, I should like to thank all the carers who looked after my mother for their professionalism and kindness, including Jean from Brookside Court and Mark from Grey Ferrers. Also we very much appreciated the constant support and helpful advice of her social worker Peter Donnelly.
On behalf of Ralph and me, I particularly want to thank Silvia for the loving care that she has shown our mother during all her time in Leicester and especially these last 10 difficult years. The burden has fallen on Silvia as the one who lived nearest and she has always been simply magnificent in her total devotion and unconditional love.
Mum did have a lot of tough times and essentially her life was one of service: first to her brothers and sister, then to her three children, and finally to her beloved grandchildren.
But I want to end this commemoration of her by recalling positive images of a rich and worthy life.
Those of us who lived with her will remember particularly her whimsical sayings. When as children we were hungry and asked what we could eat, the usual answer was: "Bread and butter and jam". If we complained, she insisted: "That's what the Queen eats". If we asked if we could have cake instead, she would reply: "When it's gone, it's gone". Most gnomic of all her utterances was the frequent comment: "Well, it just goes to show".
She was a tolerant and cosmopolitan woman who loved to meet people of different kinds and countries. She was an open and honest person with no guile whatsoever. She was always warm, invariably talkative, and even a little eccentric.
She enjoyed reading literature, listening to Italian opera, and learning French. She adored plants and gardens and, whenever she visited me in London, she invariably went to her beloved Kew Gardens.
Above all, she loved to talk - and, oh, how she could talk, an attribute that I think she's passed on to each of her children. I remember once standing outside our dry cleaning shop in Manchester and a customer, who wasn't aware of my relationship with the manageress, said to me: "My goodness, the woman in there could talk the hind legs off a donkey".
It was particularly tragic, therefore, that her stroke damaged most of all her ability to speak English and then gradually her facility to speak at all.
Like all of you here today, I cherish many magic moments with her, from when in 1967 we went to see Margot Fonteyn dance in the ballet "Swan Lake" to the time in 1990 when we went to view the award-winning Italian film "Cinema Paradiso" to the last time Vee & I saw her, just two days before she died.
All of you will have your own special memories of the wonderful person we knew as Mum or Nonna or Anna. Today - and in the months and years to come - we must cherish those memories.
I conclude this oration with a few words from a poem which I studied at school. The poem is called "Absence", it was written by Walter de la Mare, and the final verse reads:
"Yet the wildest longings, they say, burn down;
Wasted, as a candle its wax; are passed -
Thus Memory taunts me, wishing me well! -
With, 'There's one Goodbye must be the last.'"
A tribute written shortly after his death
in Edinburgh on 18 July 2000
I first spoke with Eduardo at 7.30 am on 6 August 1992. At the time, I was on holiday in Washington DC with my wife Vee and my son Richard and Eduardo had just started work at the headquarters of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) as Assistant to the International Officer Lou Moore. I remember the hour because, whereas I was still asleep at the time of the call, Eduardo was already up and working!
We arranged to meet at 12 noon that day at CWA Headquarters. Eduardo greeted me at the entrance and took me to meet the then Executive Vice President Nick Nicholls. The two of them then took me for lunch at Bellevue Hotel at 15 East Street NW where we were joined by Director of Research George Kohl and researcher Steve Abrecht. Back at Headquarters, Eduardo took me to meet Secretary-Treasurer Barbara Easterling and President Morton Bahr.
Those first four hours with Eduardo were to be the start of almost a decade of solidarity and friendship between us. We regularly exchanged telephone calls and e-mails and we met in a variety of different cities including Washington, London, Lisbon, Geneva, Brussels, and lastly Edinburgh.
The following year (1993), the Postal. Telegraph & Telephone International held its World Congress in Europe, so my union, the National Communications Union (NCU), organised a meeting in London for some of the English-speaking delegates on their way to the Congress. The countries involved were the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. The American representatives were Eduardo and Larry Cohen. Eduardo was accompanied by his wife Rosie on the visit so, on the final evening, Vee and I were able to have dinner with Eduardo & Rosie plus others in an Italian restaurant in Ealing (west London) called "Salotto".
A couple of days later, I flew over to Lisbon in Portugal for the PTTI World Congress. Eduardo & Rosie were there and we had more time together, meeting people from all around the globe. It was fun having a friendship which involved meeting in different countries of the world.
In October 1996, I attended a meeting on multinationals in telecommunications held in Brussels and Eduardo and Larry Cohen represented the CWA at the event. I always thought of those two as a wonderful team: the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the CWA. Afterwards the three of us travelled back to London by train through the Channel Tunnel because Larry and Eduardo were visiting my union for discussions on organising. I remember that we surprised my wife Vee by turning up earlier than she expected, like three happy schoolboys, and we all had to go out to have dinner.
We found a local place called "L.A. Pizza" which we collectively agreed served the worst pizzas we had ever tasted. Fortunately the meeting next morning was very productive and led to the CWA loaning the CWU three organisers for a four-month period. Also, the day after the meeting, a group of CWU colleagues, including Vee and me, entertained Eduardo and Larry to dinner at the "People's Palace" restaurant in the Royal Festival Hall which overlooks the River Thames and the Westminster Parliament.
Eduardo and Rosie happened to be in London when Rosie had a miscarriage. It was a terribly sad time, but a couple of days later Vee and I took out Rosie & Eduardo for a meal in central London and we looked forward hopefully to the future. The proudest day of their lives came with the birth of their daughter Victoria on 17 April 1998 (she shares her birthday with my dear sister Silvia).
A couple of years later, Vee and I planned a holiday in the USA that included a period in Washington, so we arranged to have dinner with Eduardo and Rosie. The date was 9 July 1998. In fact, Eduardo had to be in Puerto Rico where he was involved in a major strike against the proposed privatisation of the island's telecommunications system. But Rosie took us for a delicious dinner at the "Chart House" restaurant in Cameron Street in Alexandria. Afterwards Vee and I were keen to see four-month old Victoria, so Rosie drove us round to their home in Alexandria. Eduardo's mother was looking after Victoria and Rosie took a lovely photograph of us together.
Now - very sadly - I come to Eduardo's final days.
In July 2000, the newly-formed Union Network International (UNI) was holding a series of events in the Scottish city of Edinburgh. I learned from Larry Cohen that Eduardo would be coming over to Edinburgh to participate in the proceedings, so I contacted Eduardo to arrange that we would have dinner together on the first evening.
In fact, in Edinburgh, Eduardo & I were staying at the same hotel: the Crowne Plaza in the High Street, known as The Royal Mile because it is so historic - it links Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. On Sunday 16 July, Eduardo had been at the hotel some time and was sleeping, when I called him about 6 pm to confirm that I would collect him at 6.30 pm. Before we left the room, Eduardo took a tablet and I asked him what it was for. He told me that it was for high cholesterol.
Together we took a taxi to the Sheraton Hotel for the pre-conference reception. Eduardo had many friends there and mingled among trade unionists from almost every country in Europe. I had promised to take him for dinner after the reception and, in the end, we joined up with four of my British colleagues: David Norman, General Treasurer of the Communication Workers Union, and Simon Petch, Leslie Manneseh and Denise McGuire, respectively General Secretary, National Organiser and President of Connect.
As we searched on foot for a suitable place to eat, we passed a bar called "El Barrio". We joked about Eduardo not wanting to eat there and he delighted us with his pronunciation of the bar's name, rolling the 'r's like a true Spanish speaker. In fact, we ate at an excellent French restaurant called "Petit Paris" located in a street called Grassmarket. Eduardo was in high spirits that evening.
The following day Monday 17 July, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, we held the first UNI Europa Telecommunications Conference. In the afternoon, the conference focused on the crucial issue of organising and Eduardo was the guest speaker on this theme. He gave a PowerPoint presentation about the CWA's organising work and the lessons that it had for European unions. He spoke particularly about new organising campaigns in Microsoft and IBM. He delivered the presentation confidently and fluently, without notes. In the discussion afterwards, I was one of those who spoke, thanking Eduardo for his "inspiring" address.
That evening Eduardo started by attending a reception given by British Telecom. It was situated in the grounds of the historic Edinburgh Castle at a point called the Argyll Battery. The weather was very clear and there was a wonderful view from the castle ramparts over the city and to the Firth of Forth.
Later in the evening, Eduardo ate with a group of friends from European telecommunications unions convened by the UNI Telecommunications Officer Luis Neves (a Portuguese colleague). The venue was a restaurant was called "Bar Italia" situated in Lothian Road. As well as Luis and me, there was Tony Young and Jeannie Drake, senior colleagues from my own union, Ulla Olovsson from Sweden, Bo Larsen from Denmark and Michel Gobet from Switzerland. We all knew each other well and we all spoke English, so it was a very warm occasion. In order that we could all speak to one another during the evening, Eduardo and I changed places before we ordered desserts.
It was at this point that something started to go wrong for Eduardo. He chose to walk back to the hotel with Luis Neves and, on the way, he was not well.
Next day Tuesday 18 July, we were all back at the conference centre for a different UNI event called "Organising In The Network Economy". By this stage, we had been joined by UNI colleagues from other sectors than posts and telecommunications and other parts of the world besides Europe. Eduardo always loved to meet old friends and make new ones, so it was an enjoyable event for him. He could relax because he did not have to speak; this time, the CWA speaker was Morty Bahr.
At lunch time, Eduardo returned to the "Bar Italia" restaurant in Lothian Road. He joked with the staff that, although he had been sick after his visit the previous evening, he enjoyed the food so much that he wanted to return. For this meal - which was to be his last - he was with his CWA friends Morty Bahr and Michael Grace plus the British Simon Petch from Connect. They all reported afterwards that he ate his food with enthusiasm and that he was on good form.
Back at the conference centre, around 4 pm I left the conference proceedings to learn from Luis that Eduardo was not well again. Luis and I were concerned about him, so we asked the staff of the conference centre to call out a doctor. The doctor diagnosed a viral infection and gave us a prescription. We took Eduardo back to his hotel and only left him once he had taken the prescribed medicine and seemed much better. At this stage, he simply wanted to rest,
Later that evening. Luis and I attended a reception for the conference participants, returning at different times to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Luis returned about 11.30 pm and decided that he would check on Eduardo. Receiving no answer to his telephone call, he asked the hotel staff to open the door to Eduardo's room. Around 11.45 pm, Luis found Eduardo on the floor. An ambulance was called immediately, the paramedics gave him oxygen and massaged his heart, but it would seem that poor Eduardo was already dead. He had not called Luis or me on our mobile phones and he had not used the hotel phone by his bedside, so we assume that his death was very quick.
The post mortem which followed found that Eduardo had suffered a fatal cardiac 'event' as a consequence of acute pancreatitis caused by the medication that he was taking for his high cholesterol.
Eduardo's body was flown to Washington DC on 26 July and I took the same flight so that I could accompany him. Next day, the funeral service was held in Alexandria at the Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home and I was one of perhaps 300 in attendance. It was the most moving funeral that I have ever attended - not so much a mourning for Eduardo's death as a celebration of his life.
The blessing was conducted - all in Spanish - by Father Tarsicio Buitrago and eulogies were delivered by Eduardo's eldest sister (he had three) Doris, Morty Bahr and Larry Cohen. In between, there was singing from the CWA's black gospel choir and guitar solos from William Feasley. Then friends were invited to speak about their recollections of Eduardo and in all approaching 20 did so. Finally Rosie spoke, while holding Victoria in her arms, and she was so amazing that she was given a standing ovation. The whole event lasted two and a half hours.
Over a period of almost a decade, I worked with Eduardo on organising issues, policy issues, and international issues. Eduardo was one of those people who could bring all these issues together into a compelling vision of how to advance the interests of working people and their families.
Eduardo's professional ability was outstanding. The organising work which he did for the CWA and the support which he gave to the organising effort of the CWU were inspirational. He had a strong international view of events in the telecommunications marketplace and he was an ideal International Director for the CWA.
His organising and international work came together shortly before his death, when he played a major part in mobilising opinion against the proposed take-over of long distance telecommunications company Sprint by its rival MCIWorldCom. The CWU and Connect of Britain worked with him, notably in a lobby of European Commission officials in Brussels, which - together with the efforts of other CWA colleagues - successfully blocked what would have been the largest merger in the history of telecommunications.
The British are not noted for being demonstrative, but I am not typically British (I am half English and half Italian). One of the many things that I loved about Eduardo was his willingness to give me a hug when we met and when we parted. He was an enormously warm and open person. He had a lovely, boyish sense of humour and we all loved to see him laugh, his moustache making his smile seem so much wider.
Whenever he spoke of Rosie or Victoria - which he did often, including several times in Edinburgh - there was a tenderness in his voice and a pride in his tone. He loved them very, very deeply.
Eduardo's life was a flame which burned much too briefly but so very brightly. He died as he lived - serving the international trade union movement. Like so many others around the world, I was inspired by his commitment, his passion, and above all his humanity. Eduardo may no longer be with us, but his inspiration lives on and his inspiration will live always.
Footnote: In the summer of 2010, Eduardo's widow Rosie died after a long battle against cancer and, at the age of 12, their daughter Victoria became an orphan.
The funeral ceremony was held at Saddleworth Cemetery at a graveside overlooking the hills on 16 May 2006. It was a simple ceremony consisting only of these words that Richard himself wrote back in August 2004, but which were still as relevant as when he wrote them.
I am aware that those few of you gathered here will be looking for some comfort and an opportunity to share memories. However, on this occasion, I would like to lead with some thoughts of my own which may give you some insights into my way of thinking and how I would like, if it were down to me, for you to continue in my absence.
My first and major issue is that it is the business of the living to continue life in the present. All that is necessary is a measure of good health and an idea of how to best fill your day. There is never any excuse to linger in the past because it has gone.
Remember that the dead have it easy. Additionally, I already left some time ago. This before you is simply my physical remains which are a purely symbolic remnant that serves usefully on occasions such as this.
It is the living that carry the burden of memory. I had few insights into how anyone should live their lives; I was a fairly ordinary guy with faults and virtues of my own. There will be little or nothing to gain pondering on the way that I lived my life. Nor will there be much to gain by considering what if. I am certain that many lives will finish with unfulfilled ambitions and thwarted plans. I cannot imagine that many die with the final thought that now is the right time to go.
The big issue for me is luck. It seems that luck, meaning in this case a healthy constitution that is capable of fighting off all the stresses and strains of a modern environment, is an element that is not fairly distributed when considering individuals. The way to manage this is to look at the bigger picture among families and friends. There will always be long lived individuals to balance those who have not made it to the average age.
This is the way that luck is distributed. It is hard, but necessary to look over those you know on a wider scale and not focus on those individuals who have had less of the good gene pool. It must be hard not to focus on an individual at this time, but it really is time to try and count your blessings, so not to get fixated on todays events. Many of you will have wonderful young children or relatives or know of aging parents enjoying the flush of a protracted and happy old age. Overall you know that the life around you will triumph over any one premature death.
Indeed it is the process of dying that is difficult, especially when this is protracted and well predicted. There was always the tendency to cling at hopes, however transitory or illusory they may have been. The struggle is over now, the medical files closed, and maybe a little has been learnt that may help others.
On the matter of the disposal of my body; well, if the medical profession have nothing further to learn from it; then remember that we are indeed star children. All our elements other than hydrogen and helium were forged in the chemical plants that are the stars. There is something satisfying for me that my elements can be returned directly to the earth where they will form the building blocks of new life. This is without the intervention of human kind; but a direct uptake of useful resources in the most natural way. I hope you can take comfort from the fact that this is my preferred way to dispose of my body.
I must convey a few special thanks; for Jane and her unrelenting support despite my unpredictability and many thanks for those of my family and friends/work colleagues who made the effort to stay in touch regularly. After all it was not over until it was over and it made a big difference: enabling me to feel less isolated once I could no longer work nor drive.
It remains for me to wish you well. I am free from the pressures of life and it was down to me to obtain the most from life whilst I was able. I believe I had a fair stab at things and managed to keep life interesting. It is incumbent on you all to live life to the full because life is unpredictable and accident or ill health can strike anyone at anytime. Please try and depart with some fond memories today, but do not linger over them. Go and have a drink and something decent to eat to fortify you for the rest of the your forward journey. If I were able I would wish you well and thank you for taking the trouble to say goodbye to my physical remains today.
Note: Richard was diagnosed with advanced, incurable lung cancer in June 2003.
Extract from funeral oration by Alison Redcastle
at West Herts Crematorium on 20 May 2013
Don was born on 22 June 1921 in Plumstead. He was Charles and Beatrice's youngest son. He had two older brothers, Albert and Reg. His parents named him Ernest, and he was known as Ernie as a child and young man. He was always quite the ladies’ man and during the war had a girlfriend (well several) who hated the name Ernie so he took his middle name and Don was born. Don joined the Air Force in World War Two but as he was colour blind he wasn’t able to fly so worked on Motor Transport and was a ground crew mechanic on the planes. He served in Egypt, India and Palestine. One pilot he worked for as ground crew on Hurricanes in No 1 Squadron, was a Czech pilot called Karel Kuttelwascher. A few years ago Don was watching a TV programme about this pilot and Gill got in touch with Vee and Roger Darlington, Vee being Karel’s daughter. They began a very special relationship and Vee is here today. It was during the war that Don corresponded with Cynthia who he married in Grantham on 6 September 1947 and they had a long and devoted marriage until she died in 2001. They had one child, a daughter, Gill. Don was very much a family man. They had many family holidays in Norfolk, on the Wash and in boats on the Broads, He was a very proud father of Gill and grandfather to Gill and Marino’s daughter Lisa, and took great interest and pride in what they did. Gill says they were a very close little family unit. Having worked with transport during the war, Don’s passion was cars. He worked at de Havilland in Kingsbury and set up a motor club. He enjoyed spending all his spare time tinkering with cars, buying and selling them, and rebuilding their engines. In fact, he once went with Cynthia on a bus carrying a car engine to get some work done on it! He had his beloved Fraser Nash car plus many others including a BMW. He was proud when his granddaughter Lisa passed her driving test at 17; they could share their passion for driving. He was still driving until this year. Even though he loved his cars, he sold one to get his first house in Kingsbury when he married, and used to cycle to work! They moved to St Albans at the end of 1962, during the awful winter. They were one of the first to move into the street of newly built houses. Don loved living in Westfields. He got on well with all his neighbours. They are all really good. Don would always help his neighbours. It is a nice little community. Everybody helps each other. Don and his next door neighbour are the only original ones from when the houses were first built and they have never felt a need to move away from each other. Don worked in the engineering office at de Havilland in Kingsbury, then moved to Bristol Siddley and Rolls Royce in Leavesden. He worked for the company in total for over 30 years working his way up to management. He was Site Services Manager and had trips to MI5 to do with security. I can’t tell you more than that. At work he was always someone who was fair and calm and listened to people’s problems. He retired at the age of 61 from Rolls Royce. Cynthia was very worried that he would be bored but nothing could be further from the truth. He enjoyed every moment of his retirement and even when he suffered a stroke he was determined to carry on, a trait that has seen him through life, a very stubborn man some would say. Don was a very friendly person; he would stop to speak to neighbours, even strangers, and chat to the checkout girls at the supermarket. Don would love to tell anybody who would listen about his tales of the war, his cars, and other stories. Friends and neighbours were very interested in his life. He was also a very private person who did not like being told what to do, as many here today will have known and experienced; he always said he himself knew what was best for him. He looked after his health, eating well and exercising. Don loved his food and a medicinal whisky or Drambuie. When Cynthia died people were always surprised that he cooked “proper” meals, meat, potatoes and three veg, all fresh. His doctor was always telling Don that he shouldn’t have bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. Don told the doctor what he thought of that, and didn’t do too badly, getting to 91. Note from Vee: I was thrilled when Don Parks' daughter contacted me following the TV programme about my father Karel Kuttelwascher . We spent many a happy hour with Don telling me about his time with No. 1 Squadron looking after my father's Hurricane and also his life from childhood to old age. He was very special to me and a link to my father who died aged 42 when I was 14 years old. I will treasure the time we had together and he will remain in my thoughts forever.