Obituaries
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MITCH MITCHENER

Mitch

Here is the commemoration address that was read at Mitch's funeral in Crawley on June 18.

Mitch has been referred to as a big personality and he certainly made his presence known. A hard working man who wanted to achieve the best for himself and his family.

He had a very strong work ethic and had two precision engineering companies.  He would regularly put in long hours at the factory, tool making, and at home doing the books and administration.   The family were often involved in driving to meet clients or dropping off work to meet deadlines.  Through his need for further involvement, he joined the Founders Company and the Masons and enjoyed the meetings and social aspects these groups offered.

He was also physically strong doing many jobs himself in the house and garden - the perimeter brick wall, the york stone walls, the terrazzo path and the digging of the cellar. These were some of his many projects. The perfectionist in him meant these were time consuming and lengthy.  Who can forget the greenhouse - a work in progress for nearly thirty years.

Mitch was musical as well - being in a choir as a boy and in later life joining the Croydon male voice choir.  Did you know that he also played the guitar in a skiffle band in the 50's? And he and Esme regularly went ballroom dancing.

His family were very dog friendly - when first married there was a black cocker spaniel called Quin and, after the appropriate doggy life span, Quin the second. And then came the Weimaraners - Benjamin was a big part of his life and led him into the competitive world of showing and obedience in which they were very successful winning dozens of rosettes and placings.
Scuba diving, swimming, sailing, skiing, shooting, foreign travel - he embraced many different aspects and enjoyed them to the fullest.

Mitch must have assumed he would live into his hundreds given his remarks on future projects.  No-one ever doubted he had the physical strength to do so, but other factors came into play and stopping at 90 seems a reasonable compromise.

 
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MANSEL BARNES

Mansel Barnes, who died on March 23 2013, was a man of many interests and passions. He had a love of the countryside, singing, his family, Wales and rugby (and especially Welsh rugby)

He was a popular and witty top tenor and was also one of the remaining handful of choir members who did National Service in the post-war years.

A love of wild places: Mansel on holiday in Cornwall

Mansel Herbert Thomas Barnes was born in the village of Hirwaun near Aberdare in 1929. His home was close to the Brecon Beacons and he quickly came to love the beauty of the countryside, going for long stream-side walks with his father – a coal miner who worked at the Tower Colliery – to pick nuts and blackberries. He learned to tickle trout in the streams – a skill he passed on to his family – and made day-long outings into the mountains with groups of pals in search of wimberries which they would sell for a shilling or two.

At the local infants school he shone at reading and helped less able pupils. Later he won an eleven-plus scholarship to Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School. It was there that he acquired his life-long passion for rugby and a love of poetry and singing. From time to time amid new repertoire for CMVC Mansel would sing well-remembered songs from cantatas he had sung in his youth. He sang in school concerts and his maths teacher was conductor of the Cwmbach MVC. He joined the Junior St John’s Ambulance Brigade and the YMCA, enjoying the Sunday-night hymn singing and camping trips to the Lake District.

National Service in the Royal Air Force saw Mansel securing weekend passes to play rugby for his station! He may not have learned to fly while in the RAF, but his knowledge of the coast where radar stations are no longer was extensive. Always meticulous, Mansel made sure that when in camp, his hut won the radio for the week by ensuring that bedding and kit were folded and spaced immaculately - measured with a rule and straight string.

Back home again – while playing for his local club Aberaman RFC, a rugby injury resulted in a never-to-be-repaired severance of the right lateral popliteal nerve, leaving his leg with no sensation from the knee down.

He studied mathematics and physics at university in Cardiff and also played number 8 for the basket-ball team.

It was while at university that he met Mary Goodwin. They were married at Llanishen Church, Cardiff, on a snowy February day in 1955 when the sun shone for the wedding. Mary, he said, remained “the love of his life” for the next 58 years.

The love of his life: Mary and Mansel on their silver wedding day

Mansel and Mary moved to Croydon where Mansel joined Mullards of Mitcham, part of the Philips company. After nearly 25 years with Mullards, Mansel changed careers, teaching maths at Fairchildes school in Addington for the next 13 years. He helped run an after-school motor mechanics club, keeping staff cars in trim. He was chair of the staff association.

He entered into all aspects of school life, from playing Jacob in “Joseph” to helping with scenery, school trips, end of term parties for his form and sports events. After “retiring” again he spent several years as a visiting teacher for problem children or those who were ill, winning their respect with his wit, care and understanding.

A constant in his life was rugby. He joined the Old Purleians RFC (which later became Purley RFC and then Purley John Fisher RFC) soon after moving to Croydon. A wily centre in his playing days, he was club president from 1985 to 1991 and a popular stalwart of the club. He became choir-master for the club choir, helping them win prizes and even teaching them to sing Welsh hymns for club tours to Wales.

Club members have paid tributes to his enthusiasm, his impromptu medical skills, and his way with referees. One said: “He was a gentleman, a rugby enthusiast, a Purley man through and through who loved the camaraderie generated through playing, supporting, drinking and singing.” He retained his devotion to Welsh rugby throughout his exile in England, taking special delight from the championship-winning 30-3 defeat of England shortly before he died.

He was a committed Christian who attended St John’s, Old Coulsdon, acting as sidesman in family and baptism services. He was a devoted family man, taking great pleasure from the achievements of his three children, Philip, Veronica and Ruth, and from his grandchildren and great granddaughter. Among his duties – willingly assumed – were running the second-hand clothes shop at Emanuel, serving as committee member at Archbishop Tenison’s, and shouting encouragement from the touchline when watching the Old Palace Lacrosse team.

Mansel the family man: from right, Mansel, Mary, daughters Ruth and Veronica, grand-daughter Rachel (Ruth's daughter, now aged 23!)

Mansel joined CMVC relatively late in life, doing so in 2001 in the company of three other Purley RFC members, Dave Bannister, Martin Perkins and Ralph Osborne. He was a lively and popular top tenor, cracking jokes and making irreverent asides. He relished the friendship, camaraderie and banter, and usually returned home to tell Mary: “I had a good sing.” He was part of a coterie of Welshmen who could be relied upon to sing Welsh-language pieces with fervour and pride.

Mansel suffered a major stroke in 2008 but continued to attend rehearsals and to sing at concerts from his wheelchair. He was looking forward to the Patrons Concert at the Arnhem Gallery and had already sent his choir jacket for cleaning when he died.

Sporting his colours:  Mansel the Welshman (Photo: Phil Talmage)

Mansel will be remembered for his generosity and willingness to help others. “He was always a helper,” says Mary, who provided most of the information for this obituary. “Whether it was taking equipment to camp, helping someone with wall-papering, fixing a television set or even, on one notable Christmas Eve, repairing someone’s entire electrical circuit at their home….Mansel’s outlook, his attention to detail, his care for others and their difficulties, and his way of life all reflect his Christian upbringing and his continuing Christian belief. He touched many lives with his enthusiasm, gentleness and kindness.”

Mary adds that she was moved by the choir’s singing at Mansel’s funeral on April 8. “So many members came and sang with such richness and heartfelt sympathy.” Their singing, she says, “brought tears and smiles.”

 
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TONY SMITH

We are sad to announce the death of our former member Tony Smith. Tony’s funeral took place at Croydon Crematorium on Tuesday, 6 November 2012. Some members of the choir attended, resplendent in their choir uniforms, and a recording of the choir singing The Rose was played during the service.

Tony Smith proudly wearing his service medals

Tony, or to give him his full name, Anthony Lionel Frederick John Smith, was born on 9 May 1931 in Lambeth. He was brought up near the Old Kent Road. In 1940, when he was nine,  the house where he lived with his mother and father was bombed and destroyed. The incident had a profound impact on Tony’s life.  His father died in the bombing and his mother lost an arm.  He also lost his home and he was evacuated, although he frequently returned to the Old Kent Road area during the war to be with his mother.

Towards the end of the war Tony moved south to enjoy the warmer climate of Norwood where he became an apprentice in the building trade.  After his apprenticeship Tony applied to a number of builders for a job, without success. He  was frequently told:  “What is the point in employing you if you are soon going to be called up for National Service ?” So Tony decided that, rather than wait to be invited to join the armed forces, he would volunteer. He joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1948 and served his country until 1971. Tony saw service in Borneo, Malaya, Northern Ireland and Germany – ultimately as a Staff Sergeant/acting Warrant Officer.

Doubtless, there was a dearth of jobs available in civvy street in 1971 where Tony would have been able to make use of the skills he had acquired during his twenty-two years service with the artillery. However, Tony found his way into the Civil Service where he became a counter clerk in various post offices in central London (including the House of Commons, which has its own post office). In the late seventies Tony was promoted to Executive Officer and held a teaching post in the Civil Service until he retired in 1991. However, not being one to sit around all day, Tony joined the Corps of Commissionaires and I recall him wearing his uniform with pride until he finally hung up his “stripes” in 1995. Shortly before this time Tony had a serious car accident – it happened when he was on his way to a choir rehearsal –  quickly followed by an operation to remove a brain tumour  which was found to be benign.

During this time Tony, once more showing a liking for warmer climes that must have been strengthened during his service in Asia, had moved his family further south  – all the way from Norwood to Riddlesdown!  In 1982 he joined the Coulsdon & Purley branch of the Royal British Legion. Tony was very proud of his association with the Royal Artillery Regiment and the Royal British Legion – until last year he could be seen every November rattling his collection box and encouraging the Coulsdon residents to donate money towards the Poppy Appeal.

He always wore his beret, regimental blazer and badges – if ever there was somebody who was the epitome of military bearing it would be Staff Sergeant Smith. Tony also found time to give guided tours around the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey to tourists but had to give this up when his hearing started to fail him.

Tony was also well known to the residents of Riddlesdown.  He took it upon himself to Keep Riddlesdown Clean!  His wife Yvonne bought him a litter picker some years ago, and, armed with this and plastic sacks, Tony would scour the pathways, roads and even Riddlesdown Common and remove any offending items. His contribution to the local area was certainly recognised. In the winter edition of the Resident’s Association newsletter, the editor wrote that Tony was out in all weathers collecting rubbish.  “Undoubtedly he would have cleared up the December snow-fall by himself given a big enough bag.”  Tony’s selfless contribution to improving the local environment and raising funds for the forces was officially recognised when he was invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Tony joined the choir in 1983 at a time when our rehearsals were held in the now defunct Co-op Department store. (I remember those times well, as I joined on the very same day as Tony.) Unfortunately there was no bar at the Co-op, so rather than being able to sip his favourite tipple, Guinness, during the rehearsal, he had to choose between hot chocolate and soup from the canteen vending machine (how times have changed!)  Perhaps that was a major reason why there were only a dozen or so members in the choir at that time.

In his younger days Tony was quite outgoing and outspoken. As the years passed Tony’s hearing became an increasing issue, no doubt a legacy from the years he had served with the Royal Artillery. Naturally, this would have led to increasing frustration for him, even to point where he could become relatively aggressive. However, this led to lighter moments such as when, on one classic occasion, the choir members were in rehearsal at the Albert Hall for Remembrance Day, and he threatened to punch the lights out of another senior member with whom he was having an altercation.  On another, after his hearing had deteriorated further, he had an argument with a fellow bass over whose hearing aid was emitting the high-pitched whistle that was distracting the rest of the section.

Then there was the choir Christmas social when Tony went missing for an hour before it was his time to do a turn.  He reappeared wearing a bright red ra ra skirt, bright red lipstick and very large gold ear-rings – something which got the rest of the choir talking and has left members puzzled even now.  He promptly got into an argument with a senior choir member (the same member he had threatened to punch at the Albert Hall) who had the temerity to help Tony with the words of the song he was attempting to sing.

Tony remained a stalwart of the bass section until 2007, when sadly his hearing had worsened to the  point where he could not continue singing Earlier this year Tony was diagnosed with another brain tumour that proved to be malignant,and he passed away on 23 October. The choir extends its sympathy toward his wife Yvonne and their children.

By Gerry Upjohn

 

 
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KEN MURTON

We are sad to announce the death of former choir member Ken Murton.  His funeral at Elmers End cemetery was attended by a number of choir members, who sang in his memory.

Ken can be seen in a photograph of the choir taken in 1995.  He is in the front row, fourth from left (next to a youthful Richard Hoyle.)  Can you identify the eight current members of the choir?

Gerry Upjohn writes:  "I certainly identified eight current members in the photograph.  In fact there are ten!"

Dave Binge writes:  "Did you kill off some of the gang on Saturday! I can find TEN current members in the photo!"

Your website editor writes: "It's true, folks.  There are ten after all. Apologies.   Gerry has posed a further teaser: which former choir member forgot his jacket for the photo?"

Gerry, Dave and Nev Clark have now identified all ten current members in the photo.  They are: Brian Cousins (back row fourth from left), Dave Binge (back row, third from right), John Ward Turner (back row, righthand end); Vic Wallace (middle row, lefthand end), John Marshall (middle row, fifth from left), Matthew Wood (middle row, fifth from right), Nev Clark (middle row, fourth from right); George Stevens (front row, second from left), Gerry Upjohn (front row, fourth from right), Dick Diplock (front row, third from right).  Plus of course our current musical director Richard Hoyle, who was then assistant musical director, standing next to Ozzie Arnold, who was MD at the time.

The member who forgot his jacket was John Denson (middle row, third from left) who left the choir in 2008.

 
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ALF PERRIN

Alf Perrin, who died on 8 December 2009 at the age of 87, was an outgoing and optimistic person with a wealth of experience and a life touched by tragedy.

He was born on 6 June 1922 in Southwark, close to the Blackfriars Road, and had a tough inner-London childhood.   Aged 17 at the start of World War Two, he joined the RAF and was posted to RAF Locking near Weston-super-Mare where he trained to work on air traffic control.  Later he served overseas, spending time in Cairo and Jerusalem.  He specialised in towing targets for gunnery practice and also had a spell guarding prisoners of war.  He was thus the last surviving member of the Croydon choir who had served in World War Two.

Alf (in his RAF uniform) and Kathleen on their wedding day in 1942

He married Kathleen Toon in 1942, after meeting her at a dance in Stamford, Lincolnshire.  They had two children: Michael, born in 1943, and David, born in 1954.  After the war the family moved to Orpington where Alf worked as a window-cleaner.  In the 1970s the family moved again, this time to Devon, where they bought and managed some holiday flats in Paignton.   Alf had a wide range of interests.  He was a keen photographer and shot a lot of cine footage in the 1960s and 1970s.  Later he became a video enthusiast.  He was fascinated by gadgets and new technology and was also a keen gardener.

Both Michael and David followed their father’s interest in aviation.  Michael, the older son, joined the RAF and worked in air traffic control.  On leaving the RAF he went into the wine trade.  He married in 1969 and he and his wife Susan had four children: Nigel, born 1970; Andrew (1975); Sarah and Alastair (twins, 1980).

Meanwhile their younger son David learned to fly at Biggin Hill. He joined a civilian air formation team sponsored by Rothmans which flew displays around the world.  He was reputed to have a prodigious talent as a flyer and when he started flying solo for Rothmans a short film was made about him.

Alf and Kathleen frequently went to watch him fly at displays in Britain, Alf filming David’s aerobatics with his movie camera.  Alf and Kathleen eventually sold up their business in Devon and bought a motor home so that they could follow David as he performed around the UK.

David also carried out stunt work for feature films and in 1982 he agreed to work on a movie called High Road to China which was to be filmed in Yugoslavia. David was being ferried to the airfield in a helicopter (he was not the pilot) when it hit power lines and crashed, killing all three on board.  David was 28 when he died.   It was a devastating loss for both Alf and Kathleen.

After staying for a while in the Kensington flat where David had intended to live, Alf and Kathleen moved to Biggin Hill , where Alf joined the Croydon Male Voice Choir as a top tenor.  Choir members found him friendly and sociable. When he met Kim Ormond (now the choir chair) and his wife Annie while shopping in Biggin Hill, Alf would always stop for a chat, often talking about David as well as his own interest in aviation.

Sadly, in the aftermath of David's death, Kathleen’s health deteriorated.  Alf became her main carer, and he withdrew from the choir in order to look after her.  His own health reflected the strain of doing so, particularly after he had a heart bypass operation.

Kathleen died in August 2008 and Alf returned to the Croydon choir later that year.  Although he did not take part in concerts, he clearly enjoyed both the singing and the choir’s convivial ambience.  At 87, Alf was the oldest member of the choir, and seemingly in good health and spirits. But on 8 December, just as he was due to attend Farnborough Hospital for a medical check, he died of a suspected heart attack.  His funeral was held at Beckenham Crematorium on 22 December and was attended by a choir contingent who sang “My Lord” in his memory.

Alf’s grandson Nigel, who provided much of the information for this obituary, says:  “I shall always think of him as an outgoing, optimistic character who enjoyed life, and was happiest in the company of others.  As a kid I always referred to him as ‘noisy Grandad’ – he would often be the most excited member of the family at Christmas.  Although he had a genuine love of singing, the choir offered him a respite when Kathleen began to suffer from health problems.   When he rejoined the choir, its social aspect was very important to him, and brought him great pleasure.”

Kim Ormond remembers Alf as a “good singer and a very reliable first tenor.  He also had a great sense of humour – well, he laughed at my jokes. He was always in good spirits, even in the period when he was caring for his wife.”   When Alf returned to the choir, it was “to see his old friends and to join in where he could.  It shows that we are a very friendly choir – and Alf was a memorable part of it.”

By Peter Giillman.  Photo of Alf at Sandilands by Phil Talmage

 
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