NWSS President Dennis Lewis z”l

Following is the Hesped delivered by Jan Aspinall at her father’s funeral. Additional coverage can be found in the December 2018 issue of Haderech.

Last week a colleague gave me a sympathy card which said ‘A life well lived is a beautiful thing’. I think that this is a lovely sentiment and would mean that Dad’s life was an extremely beautiful thing. He would have said that he’d had a ‘good innings’. He would be amazed and surprised if he knew all of the lovely things that have been said and written about him since his death, the most repeated thing being ‘he was a lovely, lovely man’.

He was kind, caring, considerate, supportive, honest, had high integrity and always keen to learn. My son said that Grandpa was curious and genuinely interested in people and acquiring new knowledge which he thinks is a rarity in an old person. Dad was also a pragmatist and just got on with whatever life threw at him, as when Mum died he missed her terrible but never wasted time moaning about it – I think that she would have been proud of how he managed and lived his life over the past 16 years. More recently he commented on how quickly one got used to carers helping with basic tasks, I did tell him that I didn’t think that it is the same for everyone and that he was adaptable and appreciative – several carers told us that he was their favourite because he was always genuinely appreciative and never moaned.

Dad had a mischievous sense of humour, loved a pun and had a collection of ‘Dad jokes’. He had a collection of sayings which we heard regularly – Ho Hum, A simple task within my competence, God moves in mysterious ways, All part of the rich tapestry of life, ‘twas ever thus, mutter mutter mutter, mmm hmm uh huh. He enjoyed a gossip, never saying anything untrue, just passing on news!

He didn’t enjoy getting dressed up smartly, he would have loved ‘Dress Down’ Fridays and talked about having a ritual burning of ties when he retired. We heard the Mutter, Mutter, Mutter when we had to leave home halfway through a sunny Sunday afternoon, all dressed up to travel to North London for a family bar mitzvah.
By his example he taught us about tolerance, compassion, humility, justice, optimism, patience, humour and love. His only daughter in law says that she only married David because she hoped that he would turn out like his dad. He was gentle but not a soft touch. I only remember Dad getting cross with us as children on two occasions, both of which were with all of us, once whilst eating lunch and we upset Mum and the other time when he had the four of us in the back of the car offering helpful comments as to how to leave the Paris périphérique as we were on our second circuit of it. Other times there was just a gentle talking to.

Dad was always ready to help and give his time, over the years he did the accounts for the Girl Guides and Penny and David’s school, he was on the synagogue council in several roles at different times, he was on the Rotary council and did accounts for an old people’s home through them, he helped groups of sixth formers with the Young Enterprise Scheme – he became an expert on hair scrunchies when helping one group. He also helped individuals at work and socially, I know at work he was known as one of the partners to approach for support and also for a day off for a good cause such as going to a cricket test match.

He called himself ‘a mean man with generous impulses’, but (with regard to getting his wallet out) we used to call him ‘fastest draw in the West’.

He was totally committed to his family, always keen to hear about their doings even if he didn’t always understand their choices, he would ask questions, gain an understanding, always respecting our right to make our choices and going with them. It did take him a while to understand why one grandson, on starting accountancy training, chose not to take the Association of Chartered Accounts exams instead taking the CIMA exams! He was absolutely delighted to become a great grandfather earlier this year and thrilled that he was given her to hold at just a few weeks old, it was lovely seeing him chatting away to her as he looked down at her in his arms.

At one time or another most of his grandchildren interviewed him for a school project, either to write a biography of an older person or to find out about his life during World War Two. My daughter got off the telephone after she’d interviewed him saying ‘Gosh, Grandpa’s really interesting!’ High praise indeed from a preteen with strong opinions!

He developed an interest in steam engines and trains at an early age, he never lost this interest even though his family didn’t share it, on seeing the photos from his and Mum’s trip on the Trans Siberian Express Penny noticed that there were an awful lot of photos of parts of trains and asked Mum if she’d let Dad loose with the camera. Very recently, Penny visited Dad and it was pouring with rain and it wasn’t possible to go out. They thought they’d watch a film instead. Penny handed Dad a handful of DVD’s to choose from. He looked through them, then gently put them to one side and picked up one from his table, saying” could we watch this please”. It was a DVD of trains, chugging through bridges and went on for 45 minutes This explains one piece of music today.
He was a keen birdwatcher. Robbie, his youngest grandson, remembers him seeing a flock of waxwings – apparently a rare bird – and ringing a friend to let her know that this bird was in the area, Dad denied that this was boasting – ‘just letting her know in case she wanted to look!’

Dad enjoyed all sorts of music, classical and modern, he recently spent an afternoon with Lucy – Pip’s daughter -talking about and listening clips of some of his favourite songs, this is how the rest of today’s music was chosen
Dad was always surprised and pleased when he got special treatment, Nathan, Penny’s oldest son remembers how Dad chuckled away when visiting The London Eye because he was ushered to the front of the queue when an attendant realised Dad was walking with a stick – he never expected special treatment.

Dad was a keen reader, he read anything and everything he was given, he recently discovered Ken Follet as an author whom he really enjoyed and the last book he was reading was a biography of President Kennedy. He also enjoyed learning about the Worst Witch from my children and Angelina Ballerina with Rebekah – David’s daughter -when he was looking after her as a little girl.

All the grandkids loved Dad. He didn’t fuss or make demands and they all felt really comfortable and safe with him. When Joe – David’s son- was about 5 he was cross about something and he said ‘I hate you all, I hate everyone….. I even hate grandpa!’ This was the most shocking thing that he could think of.

Dad was keen to learn; at the age of 89 he decided that he would like a new mobile phone and to learn to text – which he did. He also decided to buy a laptop and went Silver Surfer classes at Molesey Library, he thought that Google was great, for looking up the cricket scores other equally important information! We were a little concerned when he told us that he’d searched for the escort trawler that he’d served on whilst on the Navy put in Ruby escort because he couldn’t find anything under HMS Ruby – you can imagine what turned up! Also, when he searched for some of the acronyms that he didn’t know when reading Fifty Shades of Grey, a book a spotted on the return shelf at the library during one of his computer classes.

He was happy having moved into his new home with Pip, he particularly enjoyed a recent meal cooked by Tom – Pip’s son – telling me several times how much he’d enjoyed it and what a good cook Tom is. Dad was the easiest house guest in the world, he was always appreciative, enjoyed any meal he was given and never expected any special treatment. He also enjoyed visitors, most of whom have said how much they enjoyed visiting him and what a good time they had with him and how much laughter there was.

We have received some lovely comments about him over the past ten days the most common being a lovely, lovely man. Also, top chap, a splendid fellow, an incredibly good man, a wonderful man, decent, a real gentleman. A good friend, someone who was great to laugh with, a wise elder, the voice of reason, the nicest man I’ve ever known, well in the nicest three and I’m over 80 and more all of which we agree with, we feel very, very fortunate and proud that he was our dad.