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Fred Gray

(14/4/1912 - 7/9/2015)

The oldest inhabitant of Okeford Fitzpaine sadly died on Sunday, 7 September, 2015, aged 102.  His funeral was on Thursday, the 18th of September at 1pm in St Andrew's Church.

Fred was born on the 14th of April 1912 in Southampton, the day the Titanic went down, the fourth oldest of six brothers. His father was the last man to leave the Titanic in the UK before it sank as he was a foreman of the team of joiners who were late fitting out the ship. They came off at the Needles on the pilot boat

Fred remembered waving to German prisoners of war on the fenced flat roof of a building from the top of a Southampton tram, when he was five years old.

He was brought up in Southampton and often talked of wonderful family visits on a motorcycle to Highcliffe for holidays and the New Forest weekly. A very generous man who at 25 jointly bought a house for his mother and 3 brothers to live in.

Fred obtained an apprenticeship as a carpenter at Harland and Wolf, as did several of his brothers. During the Second World War, at the British Power Boat Company he helped build many fast Motor Torpedo Boats. He was also a member of the Home Guard.

After the war Fred took various jobs eventually becoming a factory manager of a wood joinery factory in London. He was a founding member of The Joinery Managers' Association and edited its journal for a long time.

Amongst his prestigious skilled woodworking jobs was a major repair of the main wooden doors at Westminster Abbey. Hidden away, unknown to others until today, at the top of the door are his carved initials. In the foyer of New Zealand House on Trafalgar Square is a two storeys high Maori Totem Pole. Fred it was who managed the completion of its carving (by a Maori) and the erection of its several pieces into one tall pole - it is still standing today!

Fred married Lena, whom he met on holiday in Jersey, in his 30s and they lived in a flat in Richmond and a house in Pyrford before retiring to a bungalow in Okeford Fitzpaine , 50 years ago. Lena died 14 years ago, after a lifetime of married bliss, and her stone plaque is in the Churchyard.  Lena and Fred were avid gardeners and he was a founding member of the Okeford Fitzpaine Garden club. They won several first prizes of its Annual Show.

Fred was on the local Parish Council for 25 years, and he and Lena were regular churchgoers and took an active part in village life.

His lineage had much sporting talent and it should have been little surprise he became an expert rower with the Harland and Wolf Rowing club in Southampton. This club merged with the Itchen Imperial Rowing Club of which Fred was an Honorary Life Member, an award he received when he was 100. His crew won the South of England coxed fours championship in 1935 (?) and subsequently he rowed on the Thames and beat the London champions, the Metropolitan Police. In the clubhouse afterwards, a 6ft 6inch disappointed policeman glowered down at 5ft 1inch Fred and asked if he was the cox. He smiled and said no, he was the number 2 rower!  He frequently golfed near Okeford Fitzpaine until the course closed.

Fred after a short illness, the oldest inhabitant of Okeford Fitzpaine. In his first 100 years he never went into a hospital. He put his reason for living for 102 years down to several combined factors - St Bruno for his pipe, ginger ale for his daily Scotch and a clear conscience. He leaves one brother of 88 and several adoring nephews, their children and grandchildren.

He was a warm, loveable and generous man always happy and smiling - and with a great sense of humour. He had a tremendous sense of duty and was honest to the core. He never complained of anything at any time even when wronged.

He will be much missed by family, friends and acquaintances.

                                                                                            Ken Gray


Thank you, Ken, for breaking the sad news.

Our abiding memory of Fred is how he would walk down to the shop, and back again. Quite slowly, but steadily.  Ever cheerful, and he would always stop for a chat. Oh, No, he didn't !  He would chat, indeed - but (unlike some people, from whom it is impossible to disengage!) Fred never stopped walking !   Your chat ended when he was out of range.   We shall miss him.

You can pass a message on to Ken by going to our CONTACT US page, see near the bottom of the Menu on the left.

WebMaster 


Here is the Address given by Fr. Darren a'Court at the funeral service.  The "text" was the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 14, verses 1 to 6:-

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.   In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?   Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

---oOo---

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our first hymn began, “Now thank we all our God”. And as we remember Fred before God, there is a tremendous amount to give thanks for. God’s gift to Fred of over 100 years of life – he was the oldest resident of this village at the age of 102 – was, in a sense, rewarded in so many aspects of that life.

Fred was born, the fourth of six brothers, in Southampton on 14 April 1912, the very day that the Titanic sank. His father had been the last man to leave the ship in the UK as he had been a foreman joiner among a team who were late fitting out the ship. As a child Fred enjoyed family holidays at Highcliffe and weekly visits to the New Forest. Having grown up in Southampton Fred, like several of his brothers, obtained an apprenticeship as a carpenter at Harland and Wolf. During the war he used his skills working for the British Power Boat Company, helping to build many fast Motor Torpedo Boats, as well as serving in the Home Guard. A series of jobs after the war culminated in Fred managing a joinery factory in London. He was a founding member of The Joinery Managers Association and was a long-standing editor of its journal. Fred oversaw the carving and installation of a huge Maori Totem Pole, still standing in the foyer of New Zealand House on Trafalgar Square. A further sign of Fred’s skilled craftsmanship was his involvement in a major repair of the main wooden doors at Westminster Abbey. His initials are carved into the top of the doors, hidden from public view and – until today – from public knowledge! J

Fred’s gifts in working with wood were matched by his sporting ability. He became an expert rower with the Harland and Wolf Rowing Club in Southampton, which later amalgamated with a local club. At the age of 100 Fred was made an Honorary Life Member. His crew enjoyed success in the 1932 South of England coxed fours championship and beat the Metropolitan Police team on its own turf – or should that be ‘surf’? J Here in Okeford Fitzpaine Fred was a frequent golfer until the course was closed.

Fred and his late wife, Lena, retired to Okeford Fitzpaine some 50 years ago and were very much part of the life of this village community. Both were regular members of this church congregation and Fred served on the Parish Council for 25 years. Fred and Lena were keen gardeners and claimed several first prizes at the Annual Show run by the village Gardening Club, of which Fred was a founding member.

Lena and Fred had met while Fred was on holiday in Jersey and they married when he was in his 30s. They enjoyed many happy years of marriage before Lena died 14 years ago. Her ashes are interred in the churchyard here and Fred’s ashes will join hers in their final resting place.

Fred died at home after a short illness. Thanks to his nephew Ken I was able to visit and pray with Fred a few days before his death. He is survived by his brother Jim and his nephews, their children and grandchildren, and he will be much missed by his family and all who knew him. He was a man of integrity who bore no grudges and he will be remembered as a generous man who was always smiling and happy, with a keen sense of humour.

Fred attributed his long life to a combination of a clear conscience, St Bruno for his pipe and ginger ale for his daily Scotch! J Whatever the accuracy of that – I couldn’t possibly comment! J - there is no doubt that Fred’s long life has given much to those around him, in a variety of different ways, and for that we give heartfelt thanks to God. Our reading from St John’s Gospel is fitting. In it, Jesus tells his disciples of the unending generosity of God’s love for each of us, expressed in the promise of a place for Fred with him, as for all of us who follow, in his heavenly home, when our life on earth has ended. Having enjoyed God’s gift of such a long life among us, Fred now receives the ultimate gift of eternal peace, in God’s loving care and protection.

Amen. Thanks be to God.

- - - oo O oo - - -




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