30 of us met on Wednesday 30th September 2020 at St Mary’s Easton to say goodbye to Rochienne Pearce, a long time resident of Fulling Mill, Easton. The processional music was Prelude de la porte heroique du ciel by Satie and the recessional music was Angel of the Morning by Nina Simone. We hummed and lipscynched two hymns Abide with Me and The Lord of the Dance.
Holly Pearce (Rochienne’s daughter) read the poem ‘She is Gone’.
Colin Officer, (Rochienne’s partner) gave the following address.
Rochienne was born in the North Middlesex Hospital in London on 17 July 1948 of Polish parents, Stanislav Joseph Boczon and Longina Boczon. She was named Longina after her mother. Stanislav had 2 sons from a previous marriage. They would be Rochienne’s half brothers – one was executed by the Bolsheviks and the other was taken by the Gestapo, there is no trace of him. Stanislav took part in the 1919-1921 Polish-Russian war. In the second world war he was active in the partisan movement in his local area and then commanded a group with the rank of captain in the Warsaw Uprising. He was taken prisoner when Warsaw capitulated in October 1944 and was freed by the American army in April 1945.
Rochiennes parents marriage was annulled. Her father left for Germany and then Connecticut where he died in 1954 aged 61
Her mother stayed on in London and in 1950 Rochienne was placed in the care of the London County Council – Children’s Department under the terms of the Children’s Act and boarded out. At this time Rochienne’s mother was undergoing training as a dispenser at the Institute of Botanic Medicine and residing with a lady In Bethnal Green sharing a room with the landladies 9 year old son. These were tough times after the war for a single mother.
Rochienne’s carers were evicted and she was then placed with a couple in Bexhill-on-Sea and finally she was boarded out with a Mrs Joy Dennis who wished to adopt her. The adoption order was finally granted on 24 March 1954 after a long process of obtaining parental consent. It took time to track down Rocchenes father who was in the USA and her mother who had married a naval psychologist and was now Mrs Scott and living in Pari.s She had previously signed the interim consent to adoption and was now having difficulty in making the final break with her daughter.
Rochienne was now almost 6, she was renamed Linda and could now settle down to a normal childhood. Her adopted father was a school teacher and later a head teacher. They lived in Haywards Heath where she spent her school days. Like so many young girls she took-up ballet, she had a bicycle and she was an avid reader.
On leaving school Rochienne worked in a bank in Lewes and rented a bedsit, she was showing the first signs of independence. For a time she was involved in motor car rallying. She had a tragic experience, travelling as a passenger in a car with friends when they were involved in an accident in which one of them was killed.
From Lewes she moved to London and worked at Helena Rubenstein Beauty Salon in Bond Street. In her job interview she was told that she couldn’t be called Linda because they already had a Linda on the staff. She chose the name Rochienne, She married Ian. She was an exquisite woman. She attended a film premier in London, a photograph of her at the premier was published in a London daily newspaper. When her husband insisted that they have an open marriage she immediately instructed a solicitor to file for divorce. From Helena Rubenstein she joined Booty Jewellery also in Bond Street and worked on the sales team, this involved a certain amount of travelling. It was at Booty Jewellery that she met Linda Amarnani, a long standing friend who is here today. She then met Peter, sadly after some time he decided that he was not comfortable being married, so this marriage was annulled.
For a while she worked at an architectural practice and also worked at Magnums, a wine bar, in the evenings. She was also quite industrious, together with 2 friends they started Picnic which prepared and served lunches to clients which included Shepperton Studios. She got involved romantically with the co-owner of the wine bar who was Dennis Pearce whose daytime occupation was the the Managing Director of a ready mixed concrete business. She moved in with Dennis who had a house which fronted onto the Thames in Teddington. Dennis was a keen fisherman, he had a boat called Cracker moored on the river at the bottom of the front garden.
In 1979 when she was 30 years of age the authorities disclosed her birth names and the names of her parents. She now knew who she was. Holly was born in 1979. She was the apple of her fathers eye. They had a property in Upton where they would spend weekends. Dennis started acquiring Fulling Mill in about 1985 . Over a 10 year period he purchased the river, water meadows, dwellings and adjacent land. After living in the cottage the family moved into the main house in 1997, As well as fishing himself Dennis ran Fulling Mill as a fishery.
In about 1999 Rochienne obtained all the documents and papers relating to her early childhood including details of her father and mother. In these papers she found that her fathers alias during the Warsaw Uprising was Roch!.
Industrious Rochienne would retrieve items of furniture from the waste tip when it was in Garnier road and restore them. There are several such items in the house. Besides caring for her family Rochienne wanted to earn her own money, again a sign of her independence. She worked for a time at the Hotel Du Vin in Winchester and she did housework, especially ironing in Easton. On one occasion she arrived for work in Dennis’s Aston Martin. Apparently he was not all that happy with her working.
Rochienne and Dennis only married towards the end of his life to secure her inheritance. Rochienne no longer considered a marriage certificate essential to a good and lasting relationship – understandable after her two previous experiences with marriage
Rochienne sadly lost Dennis in August 2003. She promised Dennis that she would continue to care for Fulling Mill, something she enjoyed doing and did with passion. There is a card in the kitchen which states “do it with passion or not at all’.
I first visited Fulling Mill in the summer of 2004 as a guest of a fisherman friend. We fished the upper beat. I did not see Rochienne on that occasion. I was so impressed with what I saw that day that I wrote to Rochienne regarding a rod. We met in February 2005 for the first time and Rochienne showed me the lower beat. I was expecting a rather large weatherworn farmers wife not an attractive blond lady in tight Levii Jeans jumping over fences. She considered me a suitable client and I signed up for a Sunday rod. I fished throughout the 2005 season and saw Rochienne from time to time.When the season ended I asked if I could visit during the coming winter, help on the river, walk the dogs and follow this with a pub lunch. Rochienne agreed and so it all began.
Rochienne’s family first noticed that things had changed when Holly asked on a Tuesday “mummy I thought Colin was a Sunday client – now its Tuesday”.
So a new era started, lots of laughter, love and happiness. We travelled extensively. Southern Africa, United States and several European countries. We used to ski each year in Zermatt always staying at the same hotel. We then switched to spending part of the winter months in Madeira always staying at Reids. Rochienne thoroughly enjoyed Reids and its beautiful surrounds where she would do a lot of reading. She would take several of her hats from her collection to Madeira. She was so cute wearing her hat, she attracted a lot of attention from guests and staff at the hotel
There was walking in Italy, France and the Western Isles and fishing in Cuba, We supported each other.
In July 2008 we visited Paris. Rochienne had two addresses at which her mother had stayed. Both were apartment buildings in an upmarket part of Paris, Rochienne remarked ‘“my mother did alright.” At one of the addresses a window was open and 2 cats were sitting on the window sill – one a Korat and the other a Siamese. At that time she had a Korat (Buster) and a Siamese (Tequila) .
On the fishing trip to Cuba we spent a few days in Havana. On walking along the Obispo Boulevard we came across a music shop with the name Longina Musica! By this time she was using her birth name Longina to an increasing extent. We found that there is an old Cuban song called Longina it was sung to us on several occasions
We went to Brighton several times, a place she liked and had got to know when she lived in the area, We used to walk the lanes and lunch at English’s. During the opera season we would attend several performances at the Grange, she was a supporter of the Grange.
She was a modest lady, her favourite car was the Volkswagen Beetle, She had at least 3 of them over the years. She said that she didn’t want a fancy car that made a statement.
Flowers and plants were dear to her, they can be found in nearly every room of her house, there are even flowers in her Beetle.
Rochienne was a generous and kind lady, she helped several people who were facing difficulties, many of whom would also be at here today if it was not for the restrictions. She supported several charities, one of her favourite charities was Guide Dogs, she was interested in their training.
She had a very small family, but many friends, some of them of very long standing. I have received so many kind words from them. We are all devastated at her tragic death. She was also friendly towards strangers, she would sit in the front of the house and engage with passers-by on the public footpath.
She would have dearly loved to see Joshua and Sophie grow into adulthood. She adored them.
She was a beautiful, intelligent, full of life and fun and complete lady. While she was small in stature she was huge in personality. She has left a huge gap in many peoples lives.
Recently she was suffering from a severe spinal disorder. She was in considerable and sometimes severe pain. Although the future looked uncertain she put on a brave face.
I am eternally grateful to my Fulling Mill Babe , she helped me live again after suffering a bereavement. I will hold on to the memories.
Her life ended in the river she loved so much. The following appropriate words are on display in her kitchen, words she largely lived by:
Life is short
break the rules
kiss slowly, love truly,
and never regret
made you smile
Judy Bishop read from Ecclesiastes
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
Revd Alex Pease gave the following address:
Just over two years ago Rochienne asked me to come and see her at Fulling Mill. She wanted to discuss an issue in response to something that she had heard me say in a talk at a funeral, just like this one.
She had something preying on her mind which she knew that she needed to address as she was getting towards the last season of her life.
I don’t think she could possibly have imagined that her life would end quite so soon after that conversation.
As we have just heard from the reading in Ecclesiastes ‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to be born and a time to die….’…but we just don’t know when that time will come for any of us. We are (as someone put it) surfing, precariously, on a line between one date and another and we don’t know what that second date is.
Shortly after our meeting, I received a letter from Rochienne which was, I can honestly say the sort of letter you may as a vicar only receive once, in your entire career but makes the whole thing, all the effort, worth it, because it was so encouraging!
She wrote ‘Dear Alex, my conversation with you this week was life changing…..….then she refers to the matter that we discussed…..and she concluded ‘I have now realised that I can give God total love without fear for the first time’.
Whatever issue we are carrying, whether it is about something in the past, or something in the present, it need not weigh us down, in the future because Father God loves us. He loves you and he loves me. He is just waiting to free us from the burden of the past, to shoulder, instead of us, the baggage of the present.
As Ecclesiastes also says, verse 3, there is a time to heal….
But how do we access the love, that healing that the Father offers us?
Jesus says in John 14: ‘I am the Way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me’.
In other words, Jesus is saying, if you follow me, you have nothing to be worried about for the future, nothing to feel guilty about, in relation to the past. There is nothing to fear even as we cross the Valley of the Shadow of Death, if we get to know Him, now, and are known by Him now while we still can…..
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and there is no greater objective for us in our lives today; no better solution, no higher priority, no more rewarding task, than getting to know Him and being known by him.
And the time to start to know him is now…..