Obituaries
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BEN KENNEDY

This tribute to Ben, who died after a short illness on 26 February, is by his daughter Ruth, who delivered it at Ben's funeral in Chislehurst on 21 March.

His mother always called him dependable, which he didn’t like as he said it made him sound boring – Dad you were anything but!  Born in Fulham, in May 1948, Dad was the second of five siblings and part of a much wider family of aunts, uncles and cousins.  His father, who was from a farming family in County Sligo, came to Britain at the age of sixteen and was a construction worker. His mother came from Yorkshire.  Named Brendan, he was universally known to his friends as Ben.

Dad read French and Spanish at University Hall, Buckland, part of the University of London, graduating with a good honors degree and it was here that he met Mum, who was reading French and English.  They were married in August 1972 – Dad sporting a now-legendary maroon suit and turquoise shirt.  Parenthood beckoned with the arrival of me, then Claire and, once Dad had honed his parenting technique, Frank.

Ben in 1971 - best man at his friend Frank Treble's wedding

We all remember Dad reading chapters of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings aloud of an evening and family holidays, where Dad was always willing to build sandcastles and jump waves.  He encouraged us to try local food whilst abroad – often at Royan in France – and although his pleas were usually met with stubborn resistance, none of us will forget when Frank tasted, and finished, Dad’s fish soup, offering a plate of cold meats in return – something Dad gently teased Frank about regularly.

After university, Dad joined the Immigration Service, using his language skills – having added Greek to his repertoire.  Living in a small village in Kent, Mum needed the family car and so Dad settled on an alternative form of transport to work.  I have a vivid memory of Dad, on a petrol pedal bicycle, peddling off down the road until the engine sputtered into life.  He told me, many years later, that his journey on that small motorbike, down Jubilee Way into the port of Dover, with the HGV lorries passing him at speed, was what prompted him to invest in a “proper” motorbike – he continued to own and ride a “proper” motorbike until last year.  Working at the port occasionally enabled Dad to speed the journey of family – his brother remembers returning from Paris in the early 70s, waiting at the back of a long line of cars, when he was directed to the Special Treatment lane by a stern looking Immigration Officer – who leant through the window saying: “Tell Sue I’ll be home in time for dinner!” before sending them on their way.

In 1980, it was Dad’s new posting – he was in the enforcement division, based initially at Adelaide House by London Bridge – that brought us up to Orpington, close to where he grew up, and where he lived for the remainder of his life, not counting three months spent at the High Commission in Lagos in 1985 and a three-year liaison posting in Paris in 1995.  He retired from the Immigration service after 37 years, having made many friends along the way.

Dad took up golf as a way to encourage his father out of the house following the death of his mother.  He called himself a streaky golfer and we have many, many memories of listening to stroke-by-stroke accounts of Dad’s rounds over the years – usually told with good humour even when describing sometimes numerous attempts to get out of a bunker or recounting the number of balls lost in a round.  A casual job in the shop at a nearby golf course in his early retirement not only kept him busy, but led him to make new local friends, with whom he could enjoy 18 holes.  He also enjoyed several golfing holidays at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina with his brothers and friends.

Ben during the choir's Norwich tour in 2014

Dad returned to another of his passions in retirement – music.  After singing with the Snowdon Male Voice Choir during his years in Dover, Dad’s family life and shiftwork patterns conspired to limit his opportunities to sing, but he never lost his love of music.  He taught himself to play the guitar and encouraged us all to listen to a wide range of musical styles as we grew up – from Elvis and the Beatles to Edith Piaf, as well as classical composers such as Fauré, Strauss and Rodrigo.

As a family, we developed a Christmas Eve tradition of singing Christmas songs and carols before bedtime, Dad on his guitar, accompanied with tambourines and bells or our own instruments as we grew older.  Dad rekindled his enjoyment of singing as part of a choir when he joined the Croydon Male Voice Choir.  With a tenor voice, Dad enjoyed the challenge of learning new pieces, as well as rediscovering those pieces previously sung.  In addition to regular concerts in local venues, choir tours and events took Dad to sing in many iconic places such as Bath Abbey, Winchester Cathedral, and the Royal Albert Hall, as well as overseas to Belgium, France and Holland.  Such was his commitment to the choir that he became a committee member and held the post of Treasurer for the last seven years.  The choir provided a new source of friends for Mum and Dad, and when I would enquire about potential babysitting duties, I would need to fit in around choir socials!

Dad took to the role of Grandad with relish and he was actively involved with his grandchildren from the start.  A huge source of support and wisdom during our early years as parents, he would offer quiet encouragement or a shoulder to cry on, as well as practical help – he helped lay a carpet at our new house, as I was in hospital after the birth of our first child.  Always willing to support his grandchildren at school events, he would join in singing Elephants Have Wrinkles with as much enthusiasm as Handel’s Messiah. He was extremely proud of his grandchildren as he watched them grow up, and Dad was always delighted to hear of their achievements.  A thoroughly modern Grandad, he would exchange WhatsApp messages with his granddaughter, and talk with his grandsons about their successes over Skype – such was my Dad’s influence, that he converted his youngest grandson, James, to the Tottenham Hotspur’s cause, even though James’ dad was a lifelong Chelsea supporter!

Honest, sometimes to the point of bluntness, Dad could be relied upon to give you a truthful opinion when you sought his advice – even if it wasn’t the answer you wanted to hear.  We all valued his counsel on major decisions that we have made in our lives – he was rarely wrong!

Dad, you will be missed.  The advice and wisdom you passed on, through our lives, will guide us all going forward.  Your presence will always be felt and your spirit will live on through your children and grandchildren.

I’d like to finish with a poem by David Harkins, which reflects how I think he would feel today:

You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want:
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Tribute by Ruth Rea, with additions by Sue Kennedy


Ben's funeral was at Chislehurst crematorium on 21 March

 
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BOB PLATT

This tribute to Bob Platt, who died on 26 December 2015, is by his daughter Katharine, who delivered it at his funeral. 

Robert (Bob) Platt was born in November 1929 in Mile End, East London, one of ten siblings. Bob recalled seeing the buildings around St Paul’s Cathedral ablaze as the family fled from the East End during the Blitz. Later he was evacuated with other family members, first to Swindon and then Newcastle. In 1948, when the time came to do his National Service, he joined the Royal Navy for what he always called the ‘best seven years of his life’. With acute hearing, he was selected for specialising in anti-submarine detection.

Bob Platt in his Navy days

The Navy provided him with tremendous opportunities, not least travelling to many places around the Med. Off duty, he enjoyed taking part in athletics for which he achieved particular acclaim, one of his proudest moments being in Malta where he was presented with a trophy for a cross-country race from Princess Elizabeth - the future Queen.

Following active service, he remained in the Reserves and settled in Croydon, resuming his craft as a joiner and eventually opening Platts Woodwork Centre, which served the people of West Croydon for 38 years until he retired. He had a strong rapport with his customers, and few left his shop without having been entertained.

A proud moment - seaman Bob receives athletics prize from Princess Elizabeth

He was a born performer and music was a huge part of his life. He took part in many productions with CODA (Croydon Operatic and Dramatic Association) and in 1995 he joined the Croydon Male Voice Choir. He adored Bing Crosby, and for years he formed a strong partnership with his pianist friend Tony Budd and sang his 1930s favourites in pubs.  Later he entertained residents of care homes, singing and telling jokes, together with fellow CMVC members  George Stevens and on occasion Alf Perrin.

Bob relished the camaraderie he experienced as a member of the CMVC. He accompanied the choir on tours in Britain and abroad, and especially looked forward to each ‘après’. For Bob, singing with a pint in hand was the perfect combination!

Bob shortly before he retired from the choir (photo: Philip Talmage)

Sadly, ill health forced him to step down from the choir in 2010, but at home he continued to sing constantly, including his choir favourites, Moon River and Asleep in the Deep. Bob passed away peacefully on Boxing Day 2015 after a short illness, having been able to meet his new baby grandson for the first time.


 
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DAVID BINGE

This eulogy to David Binge, who died on 25 December 2015,  was spoken at his funeral by his son Paul.  The final words were written by David himself a few years before he died.


In 1678 Edward Binge and Elizabeth Picken had a son, William.  William had a son Edward and they lived in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire. Edward's son, also Edward, moved to Dry Drayton where in 1778 Allen was born.

Allen's daughter, Elizabeth, arrived in 1808, and she had a son William. His son David was born in 1864 and in time moved to Croydon.  When David was 38, his son David was born.  With Florence Matthews, this David had three sons, the oldest of whom was Bill – otherwise known to his friends in the choir as Dave.

Why all these Binges, you may ask?  More of that later.

Bill, who was born on 2 October 1928,  began life in West Croydon, but soon moved to South Norwood. His brother Jimmy remembers that Bill wasn't one to play in the street.  Instead he was always found with his head in a book. This served him well as on passing his 11-plus he moved from South Norwood School to Selhurst Grammar school for boys.

David in his thirties

On leaving school Bill worked for the Admiralty in Brighton and at a secret factory in Waddon, while also studying for a HNC in electrical engineering at Croydon Technical College.   A brief spell as a shoe salesman ensued, with one customer returning the shoes he had insisting on buying from the shop window.  These had fallen apart after a few days because the heat of the window had wrecked the glue.

Tales have also been told around this time of cycling trips to Brighton – and back! Other tales related ice-skating on the roads on his way home from the rink in Coulsdon when the buses couldn't run, and running his mother-in-law down to the coast on the back of one of his many motorbikes so that she could visit her husband in hospital.

Returning to electronics, Bill joined ICL in 1952 and remained there until 1971. Meanwhile he met Margaret and they were married in 1957.  They lived at first in Birchanger Road, then above a butcher’s shop in Portland Road. It was here one snowy night, after Bill had rescued the midwife from a drift, that John was born on Christmas Eve 1961.  The family next moved to Brockenhurst Road and a month later, on 22 May 1963, the family was completed when Paul arrived.

Some of Paul's first memories are of building the bonfires for Guy Fawkes Night together with the inevitable scares Margaret always got when the bangers went off.   Life continued largely normally for many years, apart from Bill sneaking off on hush-hush government business to the top secret Fylingdales base in Yorkshire where he trained employees on the American early warning system.   Annual family holidays to Mundesley in Norfolk remain a highlight but otherwise life for the Binges was unremarkable.

Bill's love of singing led him and Margaret to join the Spring Park Choral Society and annual Gilbert and Sullivan fests ensued. The best parts that John and Paul remember were being allowed to clamber under the stage during while the hall was being set up.

In 1971 Bill joined Burroughs Machines which was making the first cash-points.  He stayed until 1984 and in that time made two business trips to the States. The second one was particularly stressful for the family as he was snowed in and only just made it back in time for Christmas.

David (and we must call him this for a while to alleviate confusion) joined Croydon Male Voice Choir in 1975, a passion which continued until the end. A baritone, later a bass, he was a founding member and choir secretary for a time. He sang with the choir at the Royal Albert Hall and, with 800 others, in the Jubilee concert at the Fairfield Halls. His love of choral singing inspired him to join Ruskin Choral Society where he spent many a happy Wednesday evening.  In the past few days it has been said that he will be especially remembered as a helpful and welcoming tutor to new members of both choirs.

David in his eighties

Bill always had a helpful and caring nature.  This led him to become chairman of Croydon Mencap, rubbing shoulders with Jenny Agutter amongst others. In the last few years, Bill helped out tirelessly at the Addiscombe Unity Club where his hitherto unrecognised talents as a bingo caller were put to good use.

Back to where we started: since his retirement in 1983, computers, puzzles and genealogy kept Bill amused. A huge pile of research reveals the Binge lineage back to 1638.  It extends forward to the smallest leaves on the tree,  Abi and Zac, who will remember grandad's magic walking stick and his meanness at draughts. They, Sally, Paul, John and Margaret, and many of you here, will remember Bill as a sharp, witty, studious but ultimately kind-hearted person.

However we should leave the last words to him:

It isn’t usual, I know, for the fellow lying in his coffin to want to  speak to you, but someone will probably stand up and tell you all about my past, where I worked, when I married and had children, and all the other things which make up a person’s life.

I just want to say thank you - to my work colleagues, a lot of  whom have gone on before me, and to all my acquaintances. Thank you to all the friends I have made through the various choirs I have sung in, to John Ruskin Choral Society and Croydon Male Voice Choir who I’m sure will be here today, and to Unity Club companions.

Thank you to my larger family and to those I considered family even though they are not related, like Betty and Eddie. Thank you in particular to John, Paul, Sally and Abi and Zac.

And finally, thank you to my helpmeet and partner of over 50 years, my Margaret. We both know that life is not a bed of roses, but we have stuck together through everything and our love for each other still burns as brightly.

So do not be sad today. I’ve lived a long life and enjoyed most of it. Sing up heartily, as I would if able, and, if you think it appropriate, just say:

“Well done, David”


 
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DAVID HENDERSON

David Henderson, who died on 20 June 2015, lived a full and adventurous life, seeing the world both during and after his 22 years’ service in the Royal Navy.  He reached a dramatic turning point when, at the age of 25, he experienced a religious conversion that guided his actions for the rest of his life.  He wrote a fascinating autobiography which he published in 2009  and which provides most of the information for this obituary.

David Henderson, boy seaman, aged 15

David was born in 1934 and grew up in Carshalton.  At the start of World War Two, he and his eight-year-old sister went to stay with their paternal grandparents in Methil, Fife. They returned to Carshalton in 1941 and became accustomed to air-raids sirens, nights in shelters, and the houses wrecked by German bombs.  He was evacuated again in 1943, this time to Staffordshire, but returned once again to be with his parents, V1s or no V1s.

In 1948, at the age of 15, David enlisted in the Royal Navy. He survived the usual bullying and naval punishments and became a trainee seaman on HMS Vanguard, the navy’s largest and last battleship. After three years spent mostly at sea he was posted to the naval barracks at Portsmouth.  It was while there that he met and married his wife June.  His marriage had an inauspicious start when, against his protests, he was dispatched on a year-long round-the-world trip on the aircraft carrier Bulwark.

It was during a stop in Aden that David underwent his religious conversion.  He described how, while he was on the Bulwark’s flight deck, he experienced a vision of Jesus dying on the cross against a deep-blue night sky. “A deep inside peace and joy suddenly became mine.” From that moment his decisions were made in the context of what Jesus – his “hero” - would hope and expect of him as he adjusted to a “living faith and new life”.

David left the navy in 1960 and trained as a radio and tv engineer. By then he and June had two sons, Gary and David.  Soon afterwards David embarked on two years’ missionary training in Birmingham and was then posted to the Seychelles to help start a missionary radio station.  While there he and June had three more children: Mark, followed by twins Christine and Amanda.  The family of seven returned to the UK in 1970.  After a spell of unemployment, David became a part-time reporter for Radio London and then helped arrange a tour for the US evangelist Billy Graham, meeting celebrities such as Cliff Richard and Johnny Cash.

David next embarked on a remarkable missionary trip, under the aegis of the RBMU organisation, to Nepal and Papua New Guinea. Once back in Britain David travelled widely before the family settled in Welling, Kent, where he became a church pastor. But he was still away from home at lot and his marriage suffered, ending in divorce in 1986.  He was acutely depressed and came close to suicide before finding reassurance and inspiration once again in his religious beliefs.

David next worked for a Christian radio station and then became a financial advisor and salesman for Liberty Life, followed by a lengthy spell in the private health sector. He went to live in Crystal Palace and then in Penge and while there became an early member of the Croydon Male Voice Choir, which he records as having “about fifteen members”.  He found a new spiritual base at St John’s Church and also met Hazel Willson – a fellow singer, with the Croydon Philharmonic Choir: “   a very special lady,” he wrote, “with a remarkable quality of character”.

David in 2010

David and Hazel, together with two friends, set up a children’s hospice charity shop in Penge, Little Ones. It became a refuge and outlet for choir members who had to dispose of goods when downsizing, and David was invariably a cheerful presence to greet them.  Members also remember him as quiet, generous and unassuming.

David fell ill in 2013 and finally had to retire from both the choir and the shop at Christmas 2014.  He knew he did not have long to live but remained remarkably positive and cheerful, in keeping with the final words of his autobiography: “I look forward to the next life with my hero.”

His funeral was held on 7 July followed by a Thanksgiving service at St John’s, Penge, attended by some 200 people, including a large contingent from the choir.



 
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ERIC FORSTER

Eric Forster, who died on 29 May 2015, was born in a room over a pub in north-east England in June 1925.  An only child, he grew up in South Shields and Gateshead where life for his family was hard as his father was unemployed for long periods during the 1930s.  When Eric won a scholarship to the local grammar school, his grand-parents helped meet the cost of his uniform and other requirements.  His father eventually found work as a clerk with the National Assistance Board and in 1939 was transferred to London.  The family settled in Wembley where Eric was unwilling to start at a new school and so become an office junior in a local factory.  He continued studying at evening and weekend classes and in this manner obtained his matriculation and higher schools certificates.

Eric Forster

In 1946 Eric met his wife-to-be Moreen at a dance at Wembley Town Hall.  They married in 1949 and moved to Bromley in 1954.  Eric had worked in the education department at Middlesex County Council.  He later transferred to the NHS, eventually rising to the post of Chief Hospital Planning Officer for the South East Region.  He was still avid to learn and took up an evening course at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1968.

Eric and Moreen moved in Oxted in 1981.  When Eric retired in 1983 they settled down to enjoy gardening, their family, and holidays, often with their good friends Win and Geoff. They went walking in the Yorkshire Dales and spent a winter month in Tenerife.   They also become closely involved in the local community.  They volunteered for the Link organisation for several years and Eric held a range of offices in the Rotarians.  He joined the Oxted Operatic Society and sang in many of their productions – taking up where he had left of as a choirboy in Gateshead more than fifty years before.  He sang with Belle Canto Opera and later joined the CMVC. He and Moreen were both active in Oxted’s Barn Theatre.  Eric was also a keen amateur painter.

Eric and Moreen were married for sixty-six years.  They had two children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, bringing Eric and Moreen pride and pleasure in their lives and achievements.  Eric was taken ill in April and accepted that he did not have long to live.  He laid plans for his ninetieth birthday but died in Tanbridge Heights Nursing Home the day before, with Moreen at his side.   In tributes at his funeral on 17 June, attended by a number of choir members, he was described as “a true gentleman, a person of high standards, decency and integrity, courtesy and consideration”; and as “a kind, generous and loving man”.

 
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CLIFF JACOB

Cliff Jacob, who died on September 18 2014, was born in Islington in 1929. He was the youngest of thirteen children and during the war was evacuated to Cambridge with two of his sisters. He returned to London before the end of the war and had memories of fires caused by German bombs. He left school at the age of fourteen and undertook an apprenticeship in the printing industry.


Lance-Corporal Jacob prints for the army during National Service

Cliff did National Service from 1947 to 1949, serving mostly in the Canal Zone in Egypt and working for the army as a printer. It was a time of rising tension in the zone as the Egyptian regime began to press for the canal to be returned to full Egyptian control.   Later Cliff worked in Fleet Street as a compositor and was also a leading trade union figure during the era when the print unions dominated the newspaper industry, although he finally moved into management. When Cliff retired he bought a print machine and other equipment and ran a successful business from his garage in Hayes. He retained a keen interest in politics and current affairs.

Cliff was married at a young age and had a daughter, Eleanor, by his first wife in 1953. He met his second wife, Margaret, at a ballroom dancing school in 1958. Both were keen dancers and they won numerous competitions in East London and Essex. They moved to Hayes when they were married in 1962. For a time Cliff had two jobs as he worked to support his young family: Debbie, born in 1965, and Clifford, in 1966.

Margaret and Cliff on holiday in 1994 (Photo John Hills)

Margaret and Cliff were always fit and active and when Cliff was in his 70s he still liked to display his prowess as a ballroom dancer, particularly in jive and rock and roll. Cliff enjoyed bowls and belonged to the Hayes Country Bowls Club, later joining the Crystal Palace Indoor Bowls club. He followed football and was a life-long supporter of Arsenal. He and Margaret were keen travellers and often took holidays abroad.

Cliff enjoyed singing and his first choir was the Spring Park Choral Society, which he joined in 1995. He moved to the CMVC in 2000. His first concert was at Sevenoaks in 2001 – which was also the first concert conducted by the choir’s new musical director, Richard Hoyle. Cliff was a loyal member of the second tenor section and he and Margaret took part in most of the choir tours until he retired through ill health and infirmity in 2012. He and Margaret continued to support the choir and regularly attended our concerts.

Both children acquired their parents’ interest in music. Debbie was a member of Ravensbourne Operatic Society and the West Wickham Operatic Society and regularly featured in their productions at the Churchill Theatre as a dancer.  Clifford’s musical talent was on the keyboard and composing hymns for his Bromley church, where he was a leading member until he moved to India. He was unable to fulfil his ambition of becoming a missionary but stayed in India where he continued to compose and play his keyboard for churches.

Cliff at Cudham parish church in 2006 (Photo Phil Talmage)

Debbie’s husband Peter, who gave the eulogy at Cliff’s funeral on September 30, described him as “a doting father whose love and support continued through their childhood, school, university and onwards. He was a family man and proud of his children and their achievements.” His second daughter Debbie had two children, Rebecca and Joshua. Peter said: “His love and support was wholly evident to his grandchildren. Ask the children how they remember their grand-dad and they recall him being supportive, funny, kind and generous.”

Cliff lost touch with his first daughter Eleanor for a time and was delighted that they were in contact again when Eleanor was an adult. Peter said: “He always offered her supportive and kind advice. She was able to build a warm relationship with her dad and the rest of the family that has meant a great deal to her.”

Margaret was Cliff’s life-long support and her lively, generous, and ever-cheerful personality infected everyone she met. She was full of vitality and energy and she is still running Keep Fit classes in the Hayes area. Margaret’s smiling, happy disposition wins over everyone she meets and her devotion to Cliff was unwavering to the end.

By John Hills


 
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