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Denis Booth - obituary

page created July 2010; updated Friday, 16 July 2010

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Denis Booth died on 17th November 2004, aged 84.

The following obituary was first published in "Welney News" issue No. 43

Welney. Monday 29th November, 2004 at 11.30am.

The parish church of St Mary the Virgin was full to overflowing, indicating that the person whose passing was being witnessed and celebrated was no ordinary individual.

The service was conducted by the Rev. Jack Tofts who was the last vicar in residence in Welney, when the Church sold the Rectory (now, Marifa Lodge) in the 1970's. His connection with the village and his acquaintance with Denis and Edie in their early years added a special dimension to this leavetaking which was both solemn and dignified, yet uplifting and positive. The eulogies and short speeches delivered by Denis's family and friends and the manner of their presentation made this a most memorable occasion, sorrowful but celebratory and a worthy reflection of this lovely and loving man. Many of those who encountered Denis have their own memories and favourite anecdotes, which if collected would fill a book. Here we wish to publish, more or less verbatim, the contributions made by those who spoke in church. The reminiscences are close and personal, but running through, there is a story of Welney and its parish which is identified with the spirit of this man.*

Daughter - Angela
Thank you all for coming today. We are very grateful for all the support we have received and I know that Dad would be delighted to see so many people here.
Dad wanted't&'invite everyone for a drink, so please join us in the Lamb and Flag after the service.
This is a celebration of Dad's life. Shaun,George, Alec and I would like to say a few words about Dad and what he meant to us. lt will not be easy, so please bear with us.

"Shaneden" - the old Eagle Tavern
looking north east to Main Street

Dad was born in one pub and spent most of his life in another!! Seriously; his grandmother ran the Lamb and Flag and he was born there. His mother ran the Eagle Tavern and when she retired, Dad bought it and has lived there since 1962. He loved being by the river.

Dad had a brother, Geoff and sister, Elsie, both here today. They also had another sister Nora, who died at the age of 24.
Dad went to Welney school to the age of 14. He had an inquisitive mind and was very intelligent, but did not have the opportunities we enjoy today and was very proud when Shaun and I went to university. ln his teens, Dad went to Leicestershire to be apprenticed in the building trade to a Mr Dennis, who had spent fishing holidays at the Eagle Tavern, and they became his second family.

When war broke out, Dad volunteered for the army and joined the Royal Engineers. I do not know all the details, but I do know that he went to lceland and was in the second wave of the D Day landings in 1944 and then helped clear mines. He also made 9 parachute jumps. He then went to lndia and was waiting to go to Malaya when the war ended. His time in the army made him a lifelong supporter of the British Legion and he was proud to lay the wreaths in this church for Remembrance Day and very sad he was not well enough to do so for the past 2 years.

Dad came out of the army with nothing. but he and Roland went into partnership and built many houses, including Taymor Place, next to the church. He was a real craftsman who enjoyed his work and his 'piece de resistance' was to build Shaun's house at the age of 70, and stone walls for our garden when he was 80. He was still very fit even at that age.

ln his youth, Dad had a motor bike and used to take Mum to the cinema in Littleport at record speeds. He also cycled from Leicester to Welney and back for the weekend!
He loved football and used to play for Welney as centre half - ' Long Leggy Booth,' they called him. As most of you know, he was an ardent supporter of Manchester United, ever since the Munich disaster in 1958, and went to Old Trafford as often as he could. Dad also loved dogs and we had a succession of family pets, the last 3 being Golden Retrievers. He could often be seen walking Snowy on the bank, even until recently.

Dad went out of his way to help others. He regularly collected for charity, particularly the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and the Salvation Army. He was also actively involved in village life. He was a parish councillor for 41 years, 24 of those as Chairman. He also served on the Parish Hall Committee and Marshalls Charity, and for many years helped at the Playing Field Gala and on the bean bag stall at church fetes.

Dad enjoyed very good health and was rarely ill. However, as many of you know, last December he was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, but battled against it with courage and determination. He did quite well during the past year, managing to do his own shopping for quite a while, and when he was not so well, he was extremely grateful to those dear friends who helped him maintain his independence by driving him to appointments and by walking Snowy.

Denis was a devoted husband and a wonderful father. He worked very hard to provide a loving, secure and happy home for Mum, Shaun and me. He was kind, generous, a man of principle and integrity, always optimistic and had a great sense of humour; indeed he often played practical jokes on his friends. Once he arranged for application forms for the Football Manager's job at Peterborough United to be sent to one of his workmates. What a shock for the man's wife, especially as he knew nothing about it!

To us, Dad was a guide, mentor and dear friend, and if we ever wanted advice, he was there to offer wise words. One of the happiest moments of my life was walking down the aisle with Dad in this church when Malcolm and I were married. We loved him very much and are very proud to have had him as our father - he was the very best. We would not have wanted him to suffer but we do miss him greatly. ln the words of one of my favourite songs, " I would give everything I own just to have you back again, just to talk with you again ".

Son - Shaun
So many people!
Denis would be proud to see how many of you have come to say goodbye. I wonder how you met Denis and how you remember him?
lf you met in a pub, you may remember him drinking Guiness. Later he changed to red wine and during his illness he drank Cranberry juice.
lf you invited him to your home, he drank coffee. lf you offered him a chocolate biscuit, he always managed to find 2 or 3 stuck together.

You may have been fortunate or unfortunate enough to have been given a gritty Werthers Original from his boilersuit pocket. Perhaps he deposited purple sweet wrappers on your driveway after a visit.
You may remember him from activities and sport.
Perhaps you played darts with him. Perhaps you played or watched football together. A few of you may have fished with him. Several of you would have worked with him for the fishing club. Most of you would have seen him walking his dogs thousands of miles along the bank; collecting fishing licences.

We were all touched by the kind words written in your condolence cards. (at this point Shaun read out excerpts from a few - even here some of the humour and the 'joshing' came through).

You may remember him for his kindness, his ability to listen, his advice and his wit. Fenman, Gentleman, Father and a Friend.

Close friend - Alec Singleterry
Our Friend Denis A high percentage of today's congregation, many who have travelled some considerable distance, will have known Denis either socially or as a colleague, but also like myself as a friend. Both my wife Mary and I have been fortunate and privileged to have known Denis all our lives.

As a raw teenager starting out as an apprentice painter and decorator, he, along with my brother Roland, had a sizeable influence on my early workdays. I often found myself working on the same job as Denis albeit in different trades, and during those impressionable years one could not help but notice and learn how conscientiously and skilfully he went about his profession. I would like to think that some of his professionalism rubbed off on me, because as the late Alfred Carter once said to me, when Denis was doing a job that required no small amount of initiative and lateral thinking, "He is a master of his craft." On many occasions when he was doing jobs at our home, Mary would consider his expertise and term him as the "Old Artificer" and with a smile on his face he would respond, "Not so much of the 'old' Mary Helen, not so much of the 'old'."

We considered Denis as part of the family. He was responsible for the bricks and mortar when our house was built and it was he who proposed the toast at our wedding and again at our silver wedding. He was affectionately called ' Uncle Booth' by our children Duncan and Maria and more recently as our grandsons came along, he would regulady ask how they were growing and more importantly, had they got their first football strip yet!?.. . ... " Well Duncan's lad, Adam has, but -.....sorry Denis, it's a Crystal Palace kit!'

We have of course spent many happy hours in his company. Denis loved discussion and debate, and over the years we had this in abundance sitting around the kitchen table and consuming literally hundreds of cups of coffee. We would discuss the news topic of the day, or maybe a happening in the village, or most probably it would be sport. and in particular his great love of football. lt has to be said that we did not ahruays agree. ln fact. on reflection, we disagneed quite a lot. I would say to him - Booth, you are so opinionated!" and he would chuckle and say, - " And you Singleterry are so argumentative!', and so the joshing would go on until he would say we had better bring a wrse head into this debate and Mary would step in and act as mediator.

As you know. Denis enjoyed most sports, but it was with football that we shared the most common ground. He was instrumental in reforming the Welney United Football Club after the war. His career was finishing just as mine was starting, but I do remember us playing together against Emneth and can still visualise his spindly legs that hardly did justice to filling his baggy shorts. ln fact as he reminded me quite recently a spectator once said of him, that, 'With legs like those Boothy you should be sitting on a perch!!"

I consider myself a lifelong fan of Manchester United and we have spent many hours together in front of the television watching them play. Denis was 'something different' however. He was a fan, but a fan with real passion and commitment, being a season ticket holder for a number of years. lf Roy Keane went over the top in a tackle, he would titter and put it down to 'just bad timing'. lf however, Patrick Vierra mowed down Ryan Giggs in similar fashion, then no less than a red card was considered the right punishment. 'Biased' you might think?? Maybe. He just wanted them to win. On the many visits he made to Old Trafford, with his friends Debbie and her late father Tom, and also the late Len Markham, I'm sure he would rate some of those trips, without question, as a highlight of his life.

Over the past 12 months, since Denis first became ill, I have learned just what a resourceful man he was. He was always positive and never complained and he was determined to stay cheerful for the benefit of all those around him. He continued to take interest in all the various activities he was involved in, and the mandatory book of fishing tickets were always in his pocket when he walked his faithful dog Snowy down the banks.
One of his many attributes was to offer his time to those who, for whatever reason, needed support and help, and this he would give freely.

Maybe his greatest gift was his sense of fun and few people here today, I guess, have not experienced, or indeed been the victim of his quick wit and also his wry, and sometimes offbeat, sense of humour. Perhaps I can end by giving you an example of this. Over recent years he has had a fair amount of good-natured banter with his doctor,  Dr Williams,  who happens to be a keen Arsenal supponter. Shaun tells me that on the Saturday afternoon when he was taken into hospital for the last time, Dr Williams came to see him and before leaving asked Denis if he had seen any of the match played earlier at lunchtime when Arsenal beat Spurs 5 - 4. Clearly he was feeling pretty weak and frail but, quick as a flash he came back and said, " I thought you had come here to make me feel better, not worse."

That's how I think I will best remember him. Always there as a friend when needed, his cheerfulness to the end, and his great sense of humour.

He leaves a void that won't be filled. He was unique. He was " Our Friend DENIS"

Grandson - Georqe Booth
Memories of granddad were teaching about fishing, building and shooting. He taught me to respect all things including people and nature. He was wise in a different way. He had a love of people, tried to get on with them and looked for the good in people. He taught me how to shake peoples hands. He taught me how to climb trees and how to build a den.

Granddaughter - Mary Booth
When I remember granddad I think of picking the phone up at mealtimes to hear his voice, reminding us of nature programme, or a football match on T.V. I think of when we would drive through Welney and I looked down the banks to see granddad fishing or walking Snowy. He would look up, see us and wave.

During the service the Rev Tofts dwelt on the biblical text of Faith, Hope and Love. Shaun's friend Joe Welfare spoke to the text of Faith, Hope and Charity.

The two very apposite Hymns chosen were ;The Old Rugged Cross and Abide with Me.

"Shaneden" - the old Eagle Tavern
seen from the Old Bedford Bridge
As his daughter Angela noted above, Denis served as a Welney Parish Councillor for 41 years, 24 of which as Chairman.

To mark that feat, after he retired in May 2003 a collection was organised from parishioners and friends, and he was presented with an engraved tankard, a card and a cheque by Council chairman, Cllr. Ken Goodger, in the Parish Hall on 9th September 2003.

presentation to Denis

Related pages on this website
people's lives and memories
Denis on "Denis" his life in a day
Welney United FC

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