Ron was one the first people I met when I came here in January 2003. Actually I met him before that, not here, but in the Vicarage. For Ron was one of a handful of people who responded to the plea for all hands to the deck to help decorate the Vicarage before we actually moved in. Now, my family and I are very fortunate to live in such a lovely – and indeed large house, that the vicarage is, but in need of decoration as it was, and opportunely empty, it was still a tall order. And one of those who responded to the call, was a tall man – our dear Ron. For Ron, as Adrian has already told us, was a very practical man, always happy to ‘do’ things, and rather good at it too. As I recall he painted at least one room almost single-handedly, and very efficiently. He truly was a godsend, who just got on with the job in hand in the midst of a hive of activity.
So that was how I met Ron, and this was by no means the only way in which he did things for the church. Other painting jobs, in the halls and kitchens fell under his brush, and he was also very particular and very thorough when any issue about insurance came up! The draconian and thoroughly watertight contract that he made me make Hall users sign will always be part of his legacy! Bring a bouncy castle into our church hall at your peril – and make sure your peril is insured, indemnified and covered against the end of the world! Everything I know about insurance I learned from Ron – even if I didn’t want to know!
And Ron was always working for people, whether clearing the church garden, organizing bazaars at St Stephen’s, Bush Hill Park, or indeed roping his friends into the local Probus Club. Unfortunately, as you know, Ron’s ability to do things was hampered by the Parkinson’s’ he suffered from from this last ten years, and this was indeed frustrating to him and those around him. But he always maintained and took an interest.
Ron had what we might call humble beginnings. Born in Hornsey, he was brought up in Muswell Hill. He had a younger sister, Doris, born in 1934. She died in 2012. During the War, Ron was evacuated three times – firstly up to Cambridge – where the local children had school in the morning and the evacuees in the afternoon! Then he was sent to Blaenavon in Wales (that’s where the Big Pit is) and there he went to school on roller skates! And then, thirdly he went to Irchester where he passed the scholarship exams and went to Wellingborough Grammar School. Then back home he attended Tollington Grammar in Muswell Hill where he played basketball, football and cricket.
Ron did his National Service in the RAF. He trained as a mechanic and serviced the lorries – this of course explains his lifelong interest in servicing his cars – June remembers having an engine on the kitchen table while he did a decoke!
Ron studied insurance by correspondence course, and so a year after demob he was able to join Royal Insurance and gained his ACII and FCII – these are the equivalent of a degree. He worked in Knightsbridge and Piccadilly and eventually opened a Royal Insurance office in Hertford. When they moved to Watford he took early retirement but was then offered a place in an insurance brokers, also in Hertford.
Ron and June got married in 1959 and they bought their first house in Amberley Road in Bush Hill Park. Adrian was born in 1963 and Sarah in 1968, and then a year later the family moved to Longleat Road. You’ll not be surprised to hear that Ron was always busy there – gardening, decorating and supporting St Stephen’s Church, not only running the Christmas Bazaar, but painting the scout hut and running jumble sales.
In 2009 Ron was diagnosed with Parkinson’s but it became clear its onset could be traced back to 2006 when he started dragging his feet when carrying the cross in church. A home moved followed – after 43 years in their family home Ron and June moved to the lovely rooftop flat in Village Road where they enjoyed life at a more leisurely pace. So it was indeed a surprise to us all when Ron died 2 weeks ago after a very short illness. As Adrian has said, it was a terrible shock, because there were no indications, and so final goodbyes were not possible. Being here today brings that into sharper focus again, I’m sure.
Which means that we really must focus on two things:
Firstly, the good we saw and had in Ron – the many happy memories, the long life together – the things to remember and cherish and will continue to, after we say farewell today.
And the other thing we hold onto is the hope of resurrection life into which we commit him today.
This is a Christian funeral, for a Christian man. Some funerals are bleak occasions, simply gatherings at which to say goodbye, sorry and thank you. We do that today, of course, but we have so much more to say and do than at a secular funeral. For a Christian Funeral is marked by something that no other can be – and that is hope. Not only hope, of course, but faith, hope and love. These are the three things – the three enduring things that you can take with you when you go – and indeed which you can leave behind too. We heard about these three in our reading, and we often hear about them at weddings – not surprisingly because weddings – and marriages are about love. Ron and June – and with Sarah and Alan, Adrian and Maria too, you have shared a great deal of love over so many years as a family. We celebrate this today.
But here as we give thanks for Ron, and say farewell at this his funeral, it is the hope that shines out. Love for weddings, hope for funerals, and faith to link them together. For the hope we have for Ron – and for ourselves as disciples of Christ with him, is the hope of eternal resurrection life offered, promised and made sure in our Lord Jesus Christ. Hope and love are the foundations of faith, into which Christians are baptized and in which they are sent on their way at the end of a life lived in hope and faith and love too. For as we commend Ron to God in a few minutes’ time we shall do so in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ. And we shall carry him out to the words of the Nunc Dimittis. “Lord, let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation”.
It’s what an old man called Simeon said 2000 years ago and we say it still. And while this is Ron’s funeral during which we celebrate his life and sing hymns suitable for him, there is also a sense in which what we do for him is the same as for any Christian. We treat everyone the same – treat everyone the same as unique in the eyes of God, and beloved by God. So it is we affirm the sameness and the uniqueness of every Christian. And it is all marked by, and held together by this faith, hope and love.
So it is that we say farewell to Ron today.
We thank him, and we thank God for him.
We weep at his loss.
But we rejoice at the salvation in Jesus Christ, that is for him, and us, now and into all eternity.
So it is, in faith, hope and love, we say to Ron and to ourselves:
Rest in peace, and rise in Glory. Amen.
The Revd Dr Gordon Giles, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 3/3/16