Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Life of Old Buckenham shopkeeper

Bill Wardman Eulogy 
The editor of the Old Buckenham village newsletter and the village blog has been given the text of the eulogy given at his funeral service on Monday 7 September. Many villagers would not have been able to go to the crematorium so it is reprinted here to allow you to share the life of a most interesting man.
I’m Karen, Bill’s youngest. My sisters Ann Mary, Jane and I were very lucky to have such a caring, supportive and wonderful father and these words come from the three of us about our Dad, our Bill.
How do you condense 90 years of a varied and interesting life into just a few minutes?
Born in December 1929, during the Great Depression, he was a 14lb baby (can you imagine?) the first born child of a police officer Robert and his wife Elizabeth. From age 11 Bill was lucky enough to attend Warwick School, not far from where they lived. He enjoyed the school but was never keen on the its sporting tradition, but fortunately war time rationing meant that Bill could make sure there were never enough clothing coupons to get any sports kit! He had no time for what he called 22 or 30 silly men chasing a bit of leather about! Instead he was allowed to work in the school garden, growing both a life-long love of gardening and more food (win win!)
Bill left school at 16 and after a couple of years working in a pathology lab he left home to embark upon his national service in the medical corps in Wiltshire. A big strapping good looking lad who always wanted more food to support his fast growing frame, he signed up for the cookery course on campus. Now the ingredients weren’t part of your rationing allowance, the teacher was the only woman on camp, you learnt to cook and you got to eat what you made, another win-win all round!
Demob happy (and with a demob suit that still hangs in his closet today) Bill joined the Metropolitan police force following his father Robert who was in the Warwickshire force. Bill always took a keen interest in the career of Felicity our cousin who follows that family tradition.
As a young police man he guarded No 10 Downing Street, watching the comings and goings of Winston Churchill and the cabinet of the day. He joined the Police race walking team and extremely fit he completed the Nijmegen Marches in Holland and The London to Brighton Race Walk. Although there were elements of the police work that he loved the long cold boring nights at the back of Number 10, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey and the freezing damp smog prompted him to explore other options. Leaving the smog of London behind, in 1952 he joined the Kenya Police Force where he was involved in working against the Mau Mau. The few stories he told were of trying to protect the locals against forced enrolment and the arrested against illegal police and army action and of long nights tracing and searching.
It was in Kenya, both being part of the ex-pat social scene that Bill met Cecilia, the love of his life! Their marriage and the life they created together was indeed a love story. They worked together and laughed together, sharing a set of values and beliefs that always endured. Devoted to each other always.
Together they became shop keepers, taking on the running of a butchery business for a friend, then buying it and building it into a general stores on the North Kinangop. It was a settled life in the Scottish Highlands of Kenya and having to return to the UK was not a choice they would have made for themselves, but faced with an increased lack of safety and the prospect of giving up their British Passports when Kenya got independence in 1963 they felt that with two young children under 6, they had no option but to leave Kenya behind.
Returning from Africa in 1963 Bill and Cecilia looked at a few shops before choosing Old Buckenham which they loved then and always.
So in November 1963 Bill and Cecilia, along with Ann Mary and Jane moved to Norfolk! They found it a bit chilly compared with Africa, the winds howled from the east and the children saw snow for the first time. According to Mummy Ann Mary spent that first winter wearing every single item of clothing that she possessed!
The following year I was born on a Wednesday afternoon which of course in those days was half day closing.
Mum and Dad joined Spar in 1964, the shop went self service, and a while later they added the post office. 1971 saw decimalisation, and in 1974 they were the first grocery shop in England to get an off licence. In those days the wine selection was Black Tower and Matheus Rose, sherry was sold from a barrel into your own bottle and whisky and brandy were for medicinal purposes!
Bill spent most of those days in his green Spar overall behind the post office counter. This was the era before internet banking, mobile phones and email so most of the village went to his counter, collecting pensions and family allowance, buying postal orders as well as sending letters and parcels. Bill knew everyone and he was a man that believed that every individual had something interesting to say and to teach you if you listened to their stories. When not behind that counter he’d be slicing ham, fetching gallons of paraffin and delivering grocery orders round the nearby villages often with one of us in tow.
To three young girls growing up and to the end of his days as far as we were concerned our father was a giant of a man, both physically and intellectually, to us he knew everything (except sport!), he’d read the dictionary from cover to cover; knew lots about science, history and current affairs ; could quote case law from his time in the police plus he was practical and could make things and fix things. He was in charge of buying us second hand bikes and subsequently cars and had a solution for every problem.
Bill had his own unique way of fixing things. To make the house warmer upstairs he put a two foot hole in the ceiling above a heater! When one of my old Minis was letting in water which swooshed about like a tide he drilled holes in the bottom of the car and threw in some sawdust (so it then had a tide and a beach!). He repaired the wing of that green van he loved with the metal from a catering size corned beef tin. Only a few weeks ago he was trying to fix the downstairs loo hinge with two five pence pieces glued either side!
Living with three young people who all knew their own minds couldn’t have been easy for Bill and maybe this was the era when he started to develop his slightly grumpy persona! He made good use of those three little words to get him by “ask your mother!” There were some occasions when mum would say “don’t tell your father” and one of those that springs to mind was when our gerbils escaped and fell down Bill’s two foot hole in the ceiling!
It was a simple idyllic rural life in Norfolk and Mum and Dad loved it! They kept shop for 28 years from 1963 to 1991 and on the day they retired they became grandparents for the first time, to Deaglan and then to Clara. Once retired they maintained their links with the community, Mum as parish clerk and dad volunteering as a community car driver. Dad now had the time to return to his passion for growing fruit and vegetables. They would go out pretty much every afternoon, they loved to walk in Thetford Forest and along the beach in Southwold, plus going miles on their tandem. They adored those days and they adored each other, life was perfect.
Throughout his life Bill watched the goings on in the world with interest. He watched the 1 o’clock news and then the 6 o’clock news, switching over then to the channel 4 7 o’clock news (just to make they’d got it right he’d say) plus the 10 o’clock, then News Night, Andrew Marr and lots of documentaries. Plus he read the EDP newspaper avidly and much else besides. He read and he watched and he listened and he drew his own conclusions, he had his own take on things, “don’t you think” meant an interesting and wide ranging observation was about to follow. And he really did want to know what you thought, it was the start of many good, thought provoking, yet gentle conversations. Dad held a passionate belief in the principal that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. He was irritated by political incompetence, he was absolutely appalled by the Post Office Scandal, the Windrush Scandal and totally supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Dad also had a good sense of humour, he loved comedy programmes, laughing heartily at absurdity, silliness and satire, Dads Army and Allo Allo being two of his favourites.
Many of us here would also have known Bill’s dour outlook, mostly it was for effect though one of his favourite phrases was “I was born in a depression and I’m going to die in a depression!” Unfortunately this has turned out to be all too true!
After a long and happy retirement and when in her 80s Mum became quite frail and Bill cared for her with love, concern and tenderness. He did everything for her and was devoted to her to the end. It was 8 years ago that Mummy died and Bill has said numerous times that he just wanted to be with her again.
Bill was a lucky man, the eldest of his generation of Wardmans, brother to Ann and Mary, uncle to Robert, Ian, Mark, Lucy and Fitty, he enjoyed family parties and family life.
After a very brief spell in hospital Bill passed away peacefully with Jane by his side. He was chatty and lucid, telling Jane memories of Africa, Norfolk and his long and happy marriage. He gave her quite a number of instructions including “get that downstairs loo replaced, my 5pence piece repair hasn’t worked!” He also summed up his own life saying “I have had a good life, a wonderful wife and three daughters that I am proud of, I have succeeded”
In his old age Dad’s biggest wish was to stay in his own home and he achieved this with help from quite a number of good friends and neighbours many of whom are here today. Terry and Sue, Debbie and Stuart, Phil and Zona helped Dad in numerous ways. Dad’s good friend Jim helped keep the house maintained. The physios Becky, Jonathan and Amy from Back in Motion who kept Bill moving and extended encouragement and friendship. Daniel who lived with Bill and cared for him devotedly for quite a few months until he was fit to live independently again. The carers, especially Joe and Tessa, from Pride Homecare who called on Dad twice daily. Gavin who managed Dad’s affairs. To all of you the three of us say thank you. And as every orchestra needs a first violin to support the conductor there was Jane who tirelessly cared for and spent time with Dad, visiting and working with him to arrange things and to enjoy conversation, good food and television. Nobody could have done more or shown more care, we are very proud of you and on behalf of Ann Mary and I Thank you.
And as we say goodbye to Bill I want to pay tribute to him and our mother for everything that they did for us three girls. I for one want to celebrate his successful happy life and henceforth picture him reunited with Cecilia for which he will be a very happy man.

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