Farewell to arms – our last founder member..

NJB279

A celebration of the life of Stanley Henry Cheeseman

by Victoria Denning of the British Humanist Association

Welcome

A warm welcome to you all.  We are here at this funeral ceremony today, to say our final farewell to Stanley Henry Cheeseman, or Stan as he was known to his family and friends but we will do so in spirit of celebration and love. This will be a non religious ceremony in line with Stan’s lifestyle and beliefs and you will hear a précis of Stan’s life story, a reading and although there will be no hymns and prayers there will be time for quiet reflection or silent prayer.

My name is Victoria Denning a celebrant with the British Humanist Association.

Stan’s daughters, Rosie and Bobbie, would like me to thank everyone for the kind messages and cards of condolence they have received which have helped them through this sad time. Instead of floral tributes they have suggested that in memory of their father you might like to make a charitable donation.  Given his military connection they thought it appropriate to support Fisher House.  Built in the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, this has been designed so that wounded military personnel can spend time with their own families during their rehabilitation in a ‘normal’ house situation and still be in easy reach of treatment; a very worthwhile charity. There will be a collection box as we leave.

After our ceremony you are invited to join Rosie, Bobbie and other members of the family to continue celebrating Stan’s life and recalling happy memories you have of him over a drink and a bite to eat at Kings Heath Cricket Club.

So, we are here because a life has ended. We are all aware that our lives will end one day. But when it happens to someone close to us, someone who has played an important part in our lives it still comes as a shock.

Experiencing the death of someone is a very personal matter and we all cope with it in our own way, no one way being right or wrong. What we can do is support each other with understanding and love, and share the memories we have of Stan, acknowledge the contribution he made and the effect he had on you and the people around him.
One of the fascinating aspects of human life is that we are all unique. Every person has their own individuality shaped by the forces in their life. Stan was unique – there is and never will be anyone like him. We all contribute something – large or small – to our fellow human beings. Our immortality lies in the influences we have had on people’s behaviour, and the memories that remain in the minds of our friends and relations. All human relationships are unique, and Stan will have shared different aspects of himself with each one of you – greater or smaller depending on how well you knew him.
Keep hold of your memories of Stan as they are precious.

Tribute

One purpose of today’s ceremony share something of his life story, and for you to think about the Stan that you knew by recalling some of your memories. I had the privilege of meeting him very briefly three years ago when we were planning his wife, Toni’s funeral, but I got to know a little more about him from his daughters Rosie and Bobbie. I have to say, I really enjoyed finding out about him and his adventures.

Stanley Henry Cheeseman, was born on 1st February 1917 in Birmingham.
He attended a prep school in Kings Heath, travelling from Moseley on a tram for ½d. His grandfather entered him for Winchester at an early age. He passed the entrance exam and went there for 2 years until the Depression meant the fees could not be met. The Headmaster of the Central Grammar School in Birmingham accepted him.  He passed his School Certificate and Matriculation exams and after he left school he went into an architect’s office as an apprentice but that only lasted just over a year because the architect went bankrupt.

Stan then obtained a post as a trainee Cost and Works Accountant at Gaskell and Chambers, a hotel and bar fitter business.  1939 came the Second World War.  Stan who was twenty two was about to go on holiday with a friend at the time. The ship they were to travel on to Morocco was commandeered by the Navy so they visited Devon and Cornwall and were in Clovelly when war was declared.

Coming back home, Stan found Gaskell and Chambers had converted to war work and were making shell cases and torpedo chests for the Navy.  Stan was told he would be registered as a reserved occupation. But that didn’t suit him, so he took himself off to a recruiting office and joined the Army as a volunteer.  As an ex Public school boy, albeit not for long, he was registered as a Potential Officer.  In view of this and because he had done initial square bashing in the school Army Training Cadets,  he was given a Lance Corporal’s stripe and was handed over to the drill sergeant to assist in the training of the new recruits.  This must have been quite interesting because Rosie remembers her Dad could never tell his left from his right.

Because of his matriculation in Geography and work in an architect’s office, Stan was deemed able to read maps and do elementary surveying, so was given a second stripe, moved to Plymouth and shipped off to North Africa. After time at Headquarters there, surveying and mapping etc. he was posted back to England. He was given extra training in sabotage and explosives, given a commission and assigned to Special Services.  Ostensibly he was in the Pay Corps, but in reality he was now training potential members of Churchill’s Secret Army.

It was at about this time he met Sylvia or Toni as she was known at a Regimental Dance, they became engaged at the end of 1942 and then married in haste by Special Licence because Stan was suddenly posted overseas again.  Stan, of course, married in uniform, and Toni, given that her father had a lace factory in Nottingham, had a traditional white dress, made in two days. They married on 6thJanuary 1943 in Toni’s home town of Nottingham.

Stan was then bound for India.  The ship stopped at Freetown in South Africa to take on fresh water. Whilst they were there, as an explosive expert, Stan was called to defuse some suspect ‘sticky bombs’. The first six were okay, but the second batch set off too soon and Stan was caught in the blast. He was transferred to Springfield Hospital, Durban and eventually ended up in a British hospital outside Johannesburg, before a further transfer to a convalescent home where he spent a very comfortable war! He was repatriated sometime after D-day, classed as Home Only. Eventually he was posted to a Regimental Pay Office in Bournemouth; a bit of a problem because he had no knowledge of the work, his Pay Corps commission, of course had been just a cover.  However, Rosie said, ‘Knowing dad, I’m sure he was able to ‘wing’ it.’

Rosie was born in 1945 and shortly afterwards Toni was able to join Stan in Bournemouth and he was finally discharged from full time service in May 1946. They returned to Birmingham and bought a new house in Hollie Lucas Road for £1050 where they lived until the present day. Stan returned to Gaskell and Chambers in charge of the Cabinet works.

The house, in Hollie Lucas Road didn’t have a garage – not that Stan had anything to put in one, but he embarked on the first, of a lifetime of D.I.Y. projects, obtaining the necessary licence from the Council to build a garage and side entrance providing he used second hand materials.  There was a large garden and he set about building a wall along the boundary which took several years even allowing his daughters to try a bit of pointing. Over the years various extensions to the house were built, there were plumbing alterations, central heating installed, and electrical work carried out.  He hated having to call in ‘an expert’ when he thought he could do it himself. Only a month or so ago Stan was building a small retaining wall by a border, using bricks and ready mix cement, made up trowel full at a time in a bucket. All this, one handed, whilst hanging on to his Zimmer frame!

Bobbie, Stan’s second daughter was born in 1954.  Stan was still working at Gaskell’s and by now had an old Morris 8 car to put in the garage. The Government became worried about the Cold War and formed the Mobile Defence Corps.  Stan was recalled as Intelligence Officer in 1955 and attended fortnight training camps throughout the country. He was transferred to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers. By now he’d risen to the rank of Major and in the event of war, his orders were to take over the Raven Hotel at Droitwich.  He was not finally discharged from the Army until 1969 having been awarded the Emergency Reserve Decoration.

In the 1960’s he began taking the family on a series of holidays all over Europe. They’d take a ferry across from Newhaven to Dieppe and head off to all points East and South, driving thousands of miles often over roads that were not much more than dirt tracks in Spain and Portugal. These holidays were never dull. Petrol stations were few and far between and Rosie can remember her Dad coasting down the hills in what was then Yugoslavia, trying to preserve what little there was in the tank. They struggled over the Alps and Stan nearly blew himself up again because Toni fancied a cup of tea and the primus stove exploded at the high altitude. Their knowledge of the various languages was usually nil and GB plates on a car were a rarity. Stan had usually booked a hotel at the end destination but relied on being able to find accommodation en-route as they travelled.  This entailed a variety of places from luxurious (but cheap then) Pousadas and Paradors to lodging overnight in a Spanish lady’s grandmother’s house.

One year when Stan and Toni were travelling alone, there were huge floods over large areas of Austria, Northern Italy and Germany.  Some of the alpine passes were closed, including the one they’d planned to use, so they had to make huge diversions. Another time in Portugal, Toni was taken ill and flown from Faro airport to hospital in Lisbon, leaving Bobbie, who was only about 7 or 8, in the care of an English family they’d met in Albufeira.  Stan was running out of money because at that time you were only allowed to take a limited amount abroad and Rosie was at home having discussions with the British Consul and the AA trying to rearrange a change of ferry booking etc.

Over the years they had three dogs which were spoilt rotten by Toni and walked for miles by Stan across the nearby common.  He took the one dog, a large Border Collie, to dog training classes and was very proud to be awarded a cup and a small plaque for ‘Most improved dog’ or some such. It was the dogs that curtailed the foreign expeditions because after kennelling the first dog Toni said ‘Never again!’

After sixty eight years of marriage Toni passed peacefully away in 2011 and Stan found himself coping with living alone. He had thoroughly enjoyed many years in the Round Table and then the 41 Club.  He was a Founder member of the Moseley 316 branch of Table. Rosie and Bobbie are extremely grateful for the help the 41 club members gave in arranging lifts for their father to enable him to renew his acquaintance with everyone and to attend meetings again.  He particularly enjoyed Burns Night and already had the date earmarked in his diary for next year. He was honoured to be asked to speak at the 50th Anniversary dinner and to be made the first President.

Stan was hugely independent to the end.  Bobbie arranged a computer for him and after a minimum of instruction he was able to do all his grocery orders online.  Similarly he had already bought most of his Christmas presents and cards.

He lived independently, managing with just a cleaner coming in once a week and latterly a gardener once a fortnight.  He kept abreast of current affairs reading the Daily Telegraph every day and he enjoyed watching all the Antique and Auction type programmes on T.V.  Rosie bought him a wheelchair so that she could take him out occasionally to local National Trust properties.  Unfortunately, the gravel paths in their grounds are very difficult to push a wheelchair across. Stan also kept a diary until a few days before he died, even if only to record that Bobbie or Rosie had phoned or visited or the window cleaner had called.

On his ninety fifth birthday Stan took the family, Rosie and husband, Peter, and Bobbie and husband, James, to the King’s Heath Cricket Club for a celebratory meal.  Halfway through he went very quiet and then collapsed.  By the time the paramedics arrived he had recovered sufficiently to ask if he could eat his dessert now please before they took him off to hospital as a precaution.  Whilst in A and E (by now fully recovered), a crowd of nurses assembled in his cubicle and sang Happy Birthday.

Stan didn’t normally like a fuss.  Whilst he was being put into the ambulance and then again at A & E, Stan was saying everyone was making an unnecessary fuss.  He did, though, revel in the attention he got a couple of years ago when he broke his hip.  He was admitted into the Military Wing at the Q.E., where the staff were service personnel, they addressed him as Major, wheeled him down to the Mess for meals and he was most disappointed when he was well enough to go to the ‘ordinary’ rehabilitation ward.

The first doctor who saw him the last time was a Flight Lieutenant and that went down well although not quite as well as the consultant who was a Full Colonel who’d seen him.

In early November, Stanley was admitted to the QE with pneumonia and his long and eventful life ended peacefully the following day on November 11th.

Reflection

Before the committal we will take a few minutes so you can think your own thoughts and recall your memories of Stan or use the time for private prayer.

Committal:

We now come to the committal and in a minute the curtains will close. Stan Cheeseman, Major Cheeseman, leaves this world without fuss and without fear. His death is in the order of things; it belongs to the life of the world.

As we commit Stan’s body to its natural end we commit his character and personality to our memories, his love and friendship we commit to our hearts and we thank him for enhancing the lives of us all.

Remember the good times.
Remember the laughter not the tears,
Your generous heart is still at last
And your brave spirit has found peace.
You wouldn’t want us to be sad.
To mourn too long for those we love is self-indulgent.
But to honour their memory with a promise
To live a little better for having known them,
Gives purpose to their life –
And some reason for their death.

From ‘Thoughts of Nanushka’

Curtains close

Rejoice that Stan lived,
Be glad that you saw his face,
And took delight in his friendship,
Treasure that you walked life with him,
Cherish the memory of his words,
His achievements, his character, his qualities.
With love leave him in peace,
With respect bid him farewell.
Anon

Closing Words:

We have been saying our last goodbyes to Stan Cheeseman who was a son, husband, father, colleague, friend and neighbour. A soldier who rose the position of Major. He will have experienced so many changes in the world during his ninety seven years of life; medicine, transport, technology and society.

As a tribute to the time Stan spent working for Churchill’s Secret Army I would like to read a passage from Churchill’s ‘Thoughts and Adventures’.

The Journey of Life

Let us be contented with what has happened and be thankful for all that which we have been spared. Let us accept the natural order of things in which we move. Let us reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies, such as they must be in this world of space and time. Let us treasure our joys but not bewail our sorrows. The glory of light cannot exist without its shadows. Life is a whole, and good and ill must be accepted together. The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making – once.

Winston Churchill – Thoughts and Adventures

On behalf of Rosie and Bobbie, thank you, for coming here today.

I do hope this ceremony has brought some comfort to you; do continue celebrating Stan’s life and please have a safe journey onwards. We leave to a piece of music by Gilbert and Sullivan’s and although Stan did not reach the dizzy heights of Major General Rosie and Bobbie thought ‘The Very Model of a Modern Major General’! was very apt for Stan!

Exit Music ‘The Very Model Of A Modern Major General’ From Gilbert And Sullivan.