Clare Anderton Grogono died on Monday, January 31, 2000, at the age of 90. Her funeral was conducted by the Reverend Anthony Moore in Aldeburgh Parish Church on Friday, February 11, 2000. The service was attended by many friends and members of her family. She survived her husband, Eric Bernard ("Grog") by just forty days. At her funeral service, as at her husband's, her three sons each provided a tribute to her life. They are printed below.
In preparing this address, I found myself listing Mum's attributes. As the list grew, I started to wonder how I could link them together into a meaningful tribute. As usual, my wife Olivia, who has given me great support through this difficult time, told me not to worry, the list would say it all.
First and foremost she was a wonderful Mum, always taking an interest in our activities, giving generously of her time and energy. She was also a good teacher and mentor, helping me in the early days with schoolwork and always encouraging me to work harder, which I needed.
She was a caring employer, deeply concerned about the well being of those dwho helped with the household chores and garden. Mum was a respected Magistrate, Chairman of the Bench and school governor. She was a keen tennis player but perhaps a reluctant sailor but nevertheless a frequent crew to Dad. She was a terrible worrier, somehow imagining the worst scenario rather than the best. Musically, she was an accomplished pianist, although arthritis in her fingers eventually put a stop to this. Mum was a truly uncomplaining patient, despite crippling backache and sciatica at a relatively young age, and then arthritis, and finally cancer.
She was almost famous for her home made blackberry jam, for her delicious Simnel and Christmas cakes, and for her home made ice cream; all those things that are supposedly bad for you. She loved people, party going and party organising although hearing difficulties marred her enjoyment in later years. Above all, she was one of the best grandmothers Laura and Jo could have wished for. Lastly, but not least, she was a loving partner to Dad throughout their lives together.
The list could go on and on but I must leave something for Alan and James to say. Instead I am going to finish with a poem. It links the sea and sailing with departing this life and then being welcomed into the next. A poem that, to me, brings Mum once again to Dad, which is where I know, she would want to be....
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her
white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength
and I stand and watch her until at length
she stands like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down
to mingle with each with other.
Then someone at my side says
"There! She's gone"
Gone from my sight that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her
and just at the moment
when someone at my side says
"There! She's gone"
There are other eyes watching her coming
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout
"There she comes"
And that is dying.
We are here to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of my mother. She was the cornerstone of our family, and devoted herself to bringing up three sons and looking after her husband. Later she welcomed her daughters-in-law as equals to her sons; and Catherine, Anthea and Olivia became just as important to her as her sons. Later still she became a truly wonderful grandmother to all of her grandchildren.
She had a very strong personality, but it was disguised, not by deviousness, but by tact and debating skill. When a decision came up for discussion one soon began to feel that HER way was the best way after all. She was highly intelligent, but had to hide it when young, as it was deemed unfashionable in girls. She had a warm and consistent personality in all human relationships, and has been my role model all my life.
She was a great conversationalist. I used to follow her from room to room at 61 Monkhams Lane, talking, listening, asking advice. She was trying to make the beds and do the housework. It started in my teens, but I was still asking her for advice in my late 20's and even in my 30's. I owe her so much.
Her childhood in Woodford was sociable and happy, but there was not much money about. The family fortunes had been lost with the decline of the cotton mills, and her father and adored brother Brian both had jobs not fully equal to their abilities.
She excelled at all stages of her school career at Woodford County High School, and, like her life-long friend Peggy Walker-Arnott, ended up as Head Girl. A spell in Paris was followed by secretarial school and off to the City. She played tennis and the piano and kept up with many school friends over the years.
Then she met my father. Would we not give anything to replay the tapes of their courtship? We know they were a perfect match, but I just wonder if even then it was she who wore the trousers. Their pre-war years were blissfully happy. The war years were not. Endless evacuations, real danger from Doodlebugs, and V2s, husband away from years and then, at last, it was over.
She was a busy GP's wife in the 40's and 50's, telephone answering, placating patients, with little old ladies waiting coughing on the sofa with our supper in the oven. She had to cope with three rumbuctious sons. To relax, she had a knack of doing three things at once, for example, knitting and reading and listening to the radio, or ironing, feeding us and entertaining poor Auntie Joyce.
She became a magistrate. Cautious at first she later became Chairman of her court and had special responsibilities for children and in selecting Probation Offices. She ended up as the first woman to be deputy chairman of the Becontree Bench. Our meal time conversation gradually centered more on the vagaries of the law, and less on medicine and sailing. She had many other responsibilities including running the local family planning clinic, and being a Governor of her old school.
My parents became more and more sociable as the years went by, keeping school holidays for us during that phase and keeping week-ends free much later - we were almost certain to turn up hungry and with loads of dirty washing and maybe a new girl friend in tow who would always be made welcome.
They played bridge and listened to a lot of music with friends. These activities became an important part of the retirement life in Aldeburgh. Her final illness was remorseless, and well known for bad symptoms at the end. She was brilliantly looked after by Simon Ball and John Parry but her quality of life did go down. She made a witty impromptu speech at their shared 90th birthday last summer.Was there a hint of "Goodbye". A few weeks later she was made an Honorary Life Member of the aldeburgh Yacht Club and assured the club she would not burden them for long.
She coped with Dad's final illness with fortitude but she found less to live for after his death. She was cared for at home from the day after his funeral onwards. Alan and Anthea took the brunt, with additional loving help from her carers, Peter Cooper and Toya Kinrade. Andrew and I contributed when we could, and I spent more nights in Sol Backen in the last three months than in the previous five years put together. I would not have missed one of them. The going was sometimes tough at night but she was often in control: "I wish you would not look so worried dear, it really doesn't matter." Eight days before her death she was getting weak but decided she would go shopping. We got into the Co-op by stages, stopping on a chair inside before completing our rounds. She then suggested buying a new television set for her carer's sitting room where it was much needed. I suggested 'later' but she said: "It would be nice to go now dear, wouldn't it." She somehow got into the shop in Leiston, chose one, and arranged its installation; it was working by teatime, to the careers' immediate benefit.
She spent her life putting others before self and family before everything. I loved her.
We only have one mother; so, there is no way to prepare, no way to practice what to do when she leaves us. When I knew I would be talking to you today about our mother, I found it hard to choose just a few stories out of her whole life.
For sixty-five years she has always been around me: at first literally, then practically and, in later years when we moved to America, more remotely. Throughout, she provided comfort, guidance, direction, and created fun for us, our family, and our friends. So much to lose, so hard to choose. I lay in her house, Sol Backen and fragments of her time with us lived again for me.
My earliest memory is of a happy time very near here. We were playing on the beach at Thorpeness. Recently, she described these few years, before World War Two, as some of the happiest she would ever know. Very close beside this memory is a more somber one: father is telling mother: "There is going to be a war." The words meant nothing to me, but the solemnity of mother and father did. Mother's life changed. The next six years saw bombing, rationing, raising chickens in the garden, evacuation twice for herself and her children and, most stressful of all for her, father being away in the navy.
Some of the war moments are still vivid in my mind: collecting the eggs from our hens; running to hide in the air-raid shelter; long train journeys in blackout darkened carriages; standing with mother in the back garden watching flying bombs drone by over us; and lying in her bed with my two brothers when the incendiary bomb landed fifteen feet away amongst the clothes in her wardrobe. I remember her fortitude and good humour when she realised that, not only had she lost all her clothes - a disaster in war time, but also, in her haste to get us out of the house, she had left the bedroom door open allowing black, heavy, smoky, soot to cover every wall, ceiling, door, window, and piece of furniture. To this day, the same smell brings back vivid memories of her in our bomb-damaged home.
While I was away at school, I adopted a regular habit which has stood in me in good stead ever since. I started to write important letters regularly to mother and father. I wrote one of these letters approximately once every seven years, exactly the frequency that I adopted later for buying my wife a birthday present. The first of these important letters to home was to tell mother about winning a rowing race. I remember wishing, then, that I had kept a copy, a wish that I repeated each time I wrote of yet one more important achievement. I need not have worried, of course. This week, safe in her desk, I found an envelope. On it in her handwriting: "Letters and cuttings I like to keep." And, inside it, letters to her from all of her family, including the ones that I had written.
Mother loyally supported our sailing exploits, despite her belief that it was not entirely safe. She knew, for example, that Sonia's keel was secured with iron bolts and knew, also, enough about the effects of seawater to vividly imagine a detached keel, a capsized Sonia, and a drowning family. Despite her personal reservations she was a generous and enthusiastic supporter and bought a Mirror Class dinghy especially for her grandchildren.
She really loved swimming in the sea and, even though she had metal hips and crippling arthritis, she did so until about the age of 87, three years ago, even though she feared, quite correctly, that even the smallest wave would easily knock her over.
She and father were keen bridge players. Anthea and I fondly remember many happy evenings competing against them and, when this year we finally began to beat them, how mother made one of her typically happy observations: "You know dears, you really have improved a lot."
This final year saw some very happy times. Father and mother crossed the Atlantic to visit us in our new house in South Carolina. They were with us when our younger daughter, Ann, cried with happiness when she became engaged to Kurt. Sadly, they were not well enough to repeat the journey for the wedding.
When, shortly after her last operation, father became suddenly and unexpectedly ill, mother rallied promptly and devoted her efforts to visiting him in hospital. She did so despite her own discomfort and spent a large part of every day visiting first Ipswich hospital and then Aldeburgh. This ability to respond always to the needs of others is one of the nicest features of motherhood and it is one which mother retained until the end.
As I sat writing out these words in her house, Sol Backen, I recalled that wonderful description of a home: "A home is merely a house unless the mother is there." Sol Backen is still a wonderful house but, ten days ago, it stopped being a home.
I had originally finished on that rather sad note. But, shortly after writing it, the house began to fill with two generations of her family and, as it did so, it became her home again. This is probably the greatest tribute to our mother: she created a happy family and a happy home, both of which we still have.
Thank you Mother.
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Mar 6, 2010