Yesterday, on the 27th of October 2011 I had to say good bye to my Dad. He passed away on the 18th of October at about 6.10am at the George Elliott Hospital in Nuneaton. I pulled into the car park at the hospital at 6.20am. I missed him by 10 mins. I’m usually early for everything.
He had been unwell for a little over a month. On the 11th of September my Mum and I took him to see his consultant. He was admitted very promptly and spent two weeks in the Coronary Care Unit at the George Elliott. The care and attention both in a medical and nursing capacity provided in the ward was exemplary. It was very obvious that he was not well and given his cardiac history and the conversions we had during this time, it was a given that we all knew the possible outcome.
After the first two weeks his condition stabilised as best as could be expected and he was moved to another ward. All I can say here is that the experience of the CCU was not indicative of the standards across the hospital. However, for better or for worse he was allowed to return home on the 14th. I didn’t make it to see him that weekend, catching up on my own domestic life. I did speak to him though and I know he was happy to be out of hospital. We arranged to meet later in the week to discuss ‘business’. My mum tells me how he wasn’t chasing books or interested in television, but enjoyed watching the birds feed and the sun rise.
On the Monday night he became unwell and was taken back to the CCU. Then he was gone.
Over the past week me and my Mum have made the arrangements. My Dad loved golf and had many friends at Nuneaton Golf Club. In the past he was both Captain & President of the Club and I can only thank the huge number of people who have offered condolences and support since Dads passing. We hope to plant a tree on the course in the near future in honour of my Dad. I know he would like that.
With all of the other matters to attend to I did manage to write the following for the Order of Service It explains a few things.
“When my father left school he worked on Cannock Chase with the Forestry Commission. He then decided to join the RAF. He wanted to fly. As with all things he did he sailed through the induction. In the final stages he took the medical examination and it was then that he discovered he had a defective heart valve. The RAF would not allow someone with this condition in the fast jets, so despite being offered a good position on the ground he decided to pursue a career in education. He went on to Saltley College in Birmingham and whilst studying decided to specialise in the teaching of reading.
As many here will know his career in education was long and distinguished. My father was always motivated by his capacity to care and do his job to the best of his ability and not by personal ambition.
He chose to work in the areas of special educational needs and in his varied career he helped many children and adults to read.
Throughout his life he was aware that the condition that the RAF had identified would not go away.
In 1980 whilst playing golf he collapsed. Shortly afterwards he was offered the chance to have an operation that might prolong his life. The procedure was relatively new but at the time it was the only option to consider. That year he bought my Christmas presents six months early.
But, thanks to the NHS and the commitment of his doctors over many years, my father survived for a further 31 years. He often said he had two birthdays, both being equally important.
There are many conditions of the heart that affect people both here and around the world. The British Heart Foundation supports research into new treatments for patients and their work has prolonged the life of many and is shared without commercial interest. They continue their endeavours through charitable contributions, often made by survivors of heart disease and their families.
Please consider donating something in honour of my father. You can donate now or later through W. Smith & Sons or you can donate online here.
I miss my Dad but I was lucky to know him for a long time. Please help other children to know their parents by supporting this vital charity.”
I would also like to thank the many people from my Dad’s professional career who have sent their wishes and memories.
Here is a letter from a former colleague that we received.
“Aubrey’s working life was bound up in the development of children’s literacy. He really cared about finding ways to improve a child’s chances to become a better reader, a better writer.
He was head of Warwickshire Reading Service for a substantial number of years, building it up – incidentally through its several name-changes! – from a small core service into a significant County organisation eventually comprising four separate sub-teams, North, South, East and Central Warwickshire. His leadership was all the better from having previously served as a member of the original Service, before taking it over himself; this early experience gave him the insight to guide his team members with real understanding. He truly knew what was involved in their work, and was always there to give a steer when needed. But furthermore, he had the skill to perceive the individual abilities in his staff, and would allow them to develop their ideas, to the overall benefit of his organisation. His work took him into many, many schools in the County, where he became a familiar and helpful figure. He was both kind and effective in his role.
At different times, he also combined that work with services to Adult Literacy, in an era when such support was in its pioneering days.
In addition, for many years he gave his time and his very competent financial management skills to the task of building and maintaining NASEN: the National Association for Special Educational Needs, serving on their management board in the capacity of Treasurer.
And never one to walk away from the support of literacy development, for several years towards the end of his career he organised a series of conferences for teachers, in collaboration with Leicester University School of Education.”
My Dad helped start NARE (now known as NASEN), organisations that have helped to develop reading skills for children and adults affected by illiteracy. My early education was fairly ‘freestyle’ and I remember my dad spend a lot of time helping me develop my reading ability. But more than anything he taught me to seek knowledge and think for myself.
This is one to my favourite stories. In that brief period of time between being turned down by the RAF on medical grounds and prior to starting at Saltley College my Dad worked on a weight station for British Waterways. It was here that when asking a bargeman to sign for his load he saw the man use a ‘mark’. He couldn’t read or write so he used a sign. It was this one experience that informed his whole exemplary career. As I’ve said above, he was motivated by his capacity to care. An increasingly rare capacity.
Thank you to the many people who attended my Dad’s funeral and who have called and have sent messages of support to my mum. We will both miss my dad more than we can explain. He was a wonderful man, a true and honest gentleman, a doting grandfather and my only amazing dad.
I have listened to this several times in the last few weeks.
Thanks also to Revd Clive Jones for his contribution, W. Smith & Sons of Nuneaton for their efficiency and kindeness, Nuneaton Golf Club and especially the President, Mr Frank Parker for his contribution, my sister-in-law Lynette for singing, and my wonderful wife and children for being here. Most of all, my mum for always being there for my Dad all the way to the end.