Val and Bern
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Val was born in 1940 in St Alfedges Hospital in Greenwich at a turbulent and uncertain time when Britain was in the process of evacuating it’s Army from Dunkirk in the early stages of World War 2. What a time to begin your life? To compensate for this rather unfortunate timing, she had in Harry and Winifred, two of the kindest, loveliest people she could possibly have the privilege of calling her parents. Win and Harry were devoted to each other and this provided Val with a stable, loving and happy home. Val also had in Maureen, five years her senior, a cousin (Win’s Sister Ivy’s daughter) whom she grew up with and the two of them became more like sisters than cousins, their companionship lasting nearly 80 years. At School, Val was intelligent, having no issues understanding academic subjects, especially English, but with no ambition and no real drive to excel. She preferred not to be placed under pressure to succeed. Much to her Father Harry’s disappointment, a ‘bookworm’ himself, being well read and knowledgeable in a variety of subjects, Val confessed to not attempting to pass for Grammar School, being content to join her friends in the local Comprehensive School instead. Happiness is clearly not all about striving for excellence, but being content in whatever form that takes. Upon leaving School, Val had various jobs, but secured a good job as a ‘Punch Card Operator’, a skill she was able to call upon for many years in more than one Company. It is at one of these jobs, she met Bernie, who had ‘gatecrashed’ her firm’s Christmas Party with his friend Mickey. They were married within the year. It was a marriage lasting over 50 years, having 2 children, Donna in 1960 and Mark some years later in 1966. The Marriage was not one made in heaven, both very different personalities with completely different motives for a fulfilled life. However, it worked in many ways and allowed both of them to embark on a journey which, with Bernie’s ambition and Val’s support, did achieve heights and adventures which Val in her early life so tried to avoid. A succession of wonderful houses, many of which were built by Bernie. And holidays and pursuits which few people embarked upon at that time, including 2 trips to the USA in the 1970s and another to the Caribbean in 1981. Whatever you could call their marriage, it was never dull. Val sadly died in 2015, following a severe illness back in 2009 she was lucky to pull through from but inevitably she succumbed to. She was never really the same after Bernie died. The years following her illness in 2009 could never be said to be happy, having a fair share of challenges to overcome. We can all, however, be proud to have known Val. She was a wonderful Daughter, Mother and Grandmother. Kind, giving, immensely loving and thoughtful of others. She has left our Family with a sense of pride in knowing such an exceptional person, never fully acknowledged as her immeasurable virtues were such that they were often taken for granted. Our Family will never be the same without her.
Bernie was born in 1940 in Bermondsey, on the official day of the start of the Battle of Britain. Another extremely uncertain time when Britain and the World was expecting the imminent invasion of the might of the German Army. Fortunately, after a titanic air defence that lasted many months, Britain was saved. Bernie was born in to a large Catholic family, being the second youngest. He was to have one younger brother Pat, with two older sisters Nancy and Mary. He also had older brothers Harry, George, Eddie and Terry. Being in a large family meant he felt safe, but also had to fight in a very competitive environment where almost everyone was senior to him and personal space was very limited, a challenge for anyone. From an early age, Bernie showed an aptitude for creating things, his brother Pat remembering him building a boat during their annual summer holiday in kent, Hop Picking. Although Bernie had a keen academic brain, his natural inclination was to get out of this chair and create something physically. He passed for Grammar School and went to Salesian College in Battersea, a Catholic Grammar School with an excellent reputation. Sadly, feeling isolated there, he left before completing examinations. This did not hold him back however, but did shape his life to come. What path would he have taken if he had graduated, no one will ever know? Bernie as we have seen, married Val in 1960 and had a very full and active marriage for over 50 years. After Val survived her grave illness back in 2009, Bernie developed Cancer in 2010, undergoing an initially successful operation, but ultimately the Cancer spread to his lungs. A year of Chemotherapy could not kill the Cancer and, after several months of hospital visits and severe breathing problems, Bernie sadly died on 14 April 2011 at the age of 71. Bernie was the ‘driving force’ of the Family, the ‘Protector’, the ‘Rock’ his Family leaned on. Without Bernie, Val, Donna and Mark felt as if they as a Family were now ‘rudderless’. Bernie always had plans in the pipeline and provided a dynamism and energy that was infectious. Without him, it now feels as if everything achieved was for nothing now the ‘Master’ has departed. He will always leave the same void, but in a different way, as Val has left. Val was the warmth and Bernie was the protection in the Family. Now, love and security seems to have gone out of our lives and can never really ever be the same again.