Around 90 of us attended the Thanksgiving Service for George Stoney held at St Mary’s Easton on Tuesday 17th May 2016. The Easton Bell Ringers rang in his honour and Derek Beck put together a scratch choir to sing an anthem: Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by JS Bach and to support the congregation’s singing of The Lord is my Shepherd, I’ll not want, Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones and Now thank we all our God.
Martin Stoney gave various thank yous and then made the following tribute to his father:
Our father was born in Quetta in India in 1929 where his father was stationed in the army. They returned to the UK in 1933 and settled in Itchen Abbas with his father building ‘Greenacre’ on the Itchen valley road. He attended Pilgrims school in Winchester and then went to Wellington College and on to Sandhurst following in the footsteps of his father. On leaving Sandhurst he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. The army took him to Germany, Egypt and finally Hong Kong in the late 1950’s rising to the rank of captain. At this point the army was downsizing and he like many others took the option of redundancy. For a brief period of time he sold 2nd hand Vauxhall cars (so no surprises we had vauxhall viva !). He then joined Canadian life insurance company, Manulife, where he did his time as President of the local Life Insurance Asociation.
It is in HK that he met our mother who had been in HK as a physio in the army. They met at the RHKYC through their mutual interest in sailing. They also shared a passion for music and a love of gardens. They married in 1962 in the UK and moved back to HK. The HK days were wonderful days and produced 2 wonderful children ! By 1975 with ageing parents and a desire for Richard and l to be educated in the UK, they returned and settled in the Weeke area of Winchester. In 1978 they moved to Itchen Abbas where the connection remained almost unbroken for the next 38 years.
Our father had many interests and l would like to make a connection with the logos he designed and are contained within the order of service which are all at his request and represent some of his various interests.
Classical music was one of his great passions and it came in many forms. It was with him all day – the moment he woke each morning to the tones of Radio 3 and latterly as he went to sleep listening to classic FM.
When in HK our parents were part of the HK singers and on returning to the UK joined the choral society in IA. One of the logos is for the Winchester and County Music Festival and as part of the IA group they would come together annually with other local choirs and sing in Winchester Cathedral or Romsey Abbey. Our father had an important role encouraging local businesses to support the event.
Carol singing was another of his great enjoyments and he and others would be determined each year to see how many houses in the village they could visit all helped along by a few mince pies and the mulled wine that was on offer.
He was also an avid bell ringer and started as a ringer in this church some 25 years ago. He took this very seriously and attended a Tower maintenance course learning amongst other things how to correctly oil the bearings and repair the stays. He took great interest in the upkeep of churches and more recently he has been involved in the restoration project for the Itchen Stoke Church.
His other great passion was his garden and all things horticultural, where he had an encyclopaedic knowledge. He would spend many hours in the various houses he lived in tending to the gardens. When we lived in Itchen Gate we had wonderful fruit cages – raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants, which he looked after meticulously and sprayed with insecticide on a regular basis. He believed that inhaling the fumes over a number of years poisoned him and led to Parkinson’s. This was a theme discussed amongst fellow sufferers at the local Parkinson’s Society.
He also took great pride in his contribution to annual Winchester in Bloom festival and helped with the organisation and design of the logo.
He retained his links with the military and was a member of local Royal British Legion and l am told that at the 2014 Remembrance Day celebrations he stood up, despite his condition, with bowler hat on, shoes polished and smartly dressed doing to his best to uphold military traditions. He also recent years attended a Gunner reunion.
Our father was not a keen sportsman but l am reminded by his school friend, Martyn Segar, that they both took up boxing to avoid having to play rugby in cold wet conditions.
Our father was a great traditionalist who took great interest in our family history and communicated when he could with Stoney’s in all corners of the world. As an example of him wanting things just so l noticed recently 3 different plans on the back of the kitchen door for breakfast, lunch and supper showing exactly where his cutlery, tea pot, salt and pepper and other bits and pieces should be placed. He would have no hesitation in telling his carers if they got it wrong !
He was also a very practical man and l would like to share a couple of anecdotes. When their dog, Emma, developed arthritis in her back legs rather than lift her on to her favoured place on the sofa as others might do he built her a ramp so the she could walk up and down as she pleased ! Also, on the day of Zoe and my wedding we had a major issue with the generator that was supplying the electricity to the marquee. I am reminded by my brother in law that while all other family members were at a loss of how to fix it he rolled up his sleeves and sorted the problem.
Richard and l enormously grateful for everything he gave us and he took great interest in the activities of his grandchildren whether it be their academic, sporting or musical achievements.
I would like to finish with his final years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004 and initially he carried on as normal. In 2007 our mother died and within a year he was saying to Richard and l he needed help. From there we introduced carers and there another chapter started.
We were overwhelmed with the role that his 3 main carers, Diana, Louisa, and Luan played in his final years. He was difficult at times but they gave him great dignity, showed enormous patience, and provided him with valuable friendship at a time when life was not easy and very lonely.
The last year has been very difficult where our father spent more time in hospital than at home. In December we thought the end was close but his grit and determination pulled him through. He returned home in early March and initially looked as well as he had been for over a year but in his last 2 weeks he sadly deteriorated. A treasured and final memory was a small family gathering as a belated birthday celebration. It was a beautiful day – we took him in his wheel chair down station road a journey he had not made for many months, chatting to neighbours on the way. He was unable to do much more than point his fingers at the daffodils and crocuses in full bloom at the end of the road. These were flowers he planted many years before to bring colour to the area every year – with these flowers his courage will live in our memories.
Revd Alex Pease’s address was as follows:
I got to know George when I arrived in the Valley 4 years ago and I went to see him
on a number of occasions. I was so struck by the remarkable courage with which he faced his Parkinson’s.
And I mean courage. For some walking up the path to St Johns to our monthly CAMEO sessions might seem like nothing but for him it was the south face of Annapurna: he was determined to walk as much as he could with a zimmer frame to the door and only very latterly conceded that he should have a wheel chair.
As one of our parishioners has pointed out to me “old age is not for the faint hearted”, and nor is Parkinson’s and George showed enormous courage throughout.
But I think it must have been the isolation from a community that he loved caused by his condition that must have been the hardest thing, although many of his friends and neighbours visited him, and despite the love and attention of his family and his fantastic carers – Diana, Louisa and Luan.
As it became harder and harder for him to make himself understood, the isolation caused by his condition must have been very hard. How do you show, who you are, what you care about, when you cannot make yourself heard?
On one occasion he called me on the phone and whispered ‘you must come round immediately’. I have to say I groaned a bit. I had just two or three days before been round to see him but it had been a difficult morning because my car battery had gone flat on the visit I was making just before seeing him and so I was late. He was fine about this and graciously accepted my apologies but I think I might have delayed one of his carers from using the opportunity of my visit to go and get some chores done.
But I went round anyway and he handed me a large brown envelope ‘for you’ he whispered. In the envelope was a new set of car jump leads, which he must have ordered on the internet!
This kind gesture was characteristic of George, by it he managed to overcome the barrier of his isolating condition and show love for another human being, in this case the feckless curate!
And of course now he has crossed another barrier, that between life and death.
Any funeral or thanksgiving service does tend to make us think about our own mortality, as we each move towards the end of the conveyor belt, and there are less and less people in front of us.
And this can be a scary prospect for many of us. What happens when we die? Is it oblivion? Or something else?
In many respects, oblivion is an easier prospect to contemplate, particularly, when, as in George’s case, there has been a lot of suffering before death. It is in a way the easy option if we imagine that when we die it is like going under a general anaesthetic, for ever.
But what if that is not right?
Simply by believing that there is oblivion after death, doesn’t make it true.
One of the biggest fears, I think, is that of isolation, that we will find ourselves separated from the love that we need to give and to sustain us; that we will be in someway, alone…
And this is where the Psalm (Psalm 139:1-12) that Tony has just read us is so helpful. Whatever happens, there is nowhere that we can go, nowhere that we can be, which is beyond God’s presence.
As the Psalmist writes:
‘If I go up to the heavens, you are there
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me
your right hand will hold me fast’
But how can we encounter, how can we be sure of, that barrier-crossing love which will reach us wherever we go? Only by getting to know Jesus now, only by starting a relationship with the living Jesus, now.
Jesus, a person whose life is referred to by non Christian, Roman and Jewish historians; who lived, died and came back to life at a specific time in history at a specific place in the world’s geography. Whose death and resurrection was attested to, by many witnesses. That Jesus who said ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’
Jesus is the Way, for us to pass across that final boundary, it is Jesus’ love that can reach us however isolated we may be.
There is nothing to worry about as we cross over that final boundary if we get to know Jesus, now, and are known by Him, while we can.
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and there is no greater journey of discovery no greater solution to our isolation now and for always than getting to know Him.