Funeral Ceremony for

Gerald Foster

at Cambridge City Crematorium on

Wednesday 9th April 2008, at 2.15 pm

Funeral Celebrant - Andrew Patey MICF

Gerald Foster 2nd October 1958 - 2nd April 2008

Opening Music: The Overture from The Water Music by Handel

The death of anyone close to us is always accompanied by grief and pain. When that person was in the prime of their life, as Gerald was, these feelings are multiplied because we do not just mourn the life that has been lost but also the life that was to come and which will not now be fulfilled.

As a child Gerald was brought up in the Christian faith and later became confirmed. Throughout his life he followed the Christian principles of love and respect for others but as an adult he followed his own spiritual path and did not adhere to any particular religious doctrine. It is for this reason that his family have chosen a Civil Funeral Ceremony for him today and it is my privilege to be officiating today at their request on behalf of the Institute of Civil Funerals.

A Civil Funeral Ceremony is one that reflects the values and beliefs of the person who has died along with the wishes of their family rather than the ideology and doctrine of the person conducting the service. Gerald's funeral will therefore be a very family centred occasion which is how it should be and I am delighted that his children, Katie and Ian, will be making personal contributions to our ceremony. I will also be reading words of remembrance and tribute provided by his mother, Marian, and his wife, Julie, as well and reflecting on the views and recollections of his wider family some of whom I had the pleasure of meeting last week when we were planning this ceremony.

Those of you who knew Gerald well will know that music played a major role in his life and part of our tribute to him today will be some pieces of music that were particular favourites of his and which his family have carefully chosen.

Despite the fact that Gerald did not attend church on a regular basis he retained a healthy respect for religion and maintained a love of the sacred music of the church. To reflect this we will be singing a hymn together in a few moments and later we will join together in saying The Lord's Prayer. There will also be some time set aside for personal reflection so that you can bring to mind your own special memories of Gerald or pray privately for him if you so wish.

I trust that whatever your own personal beliefs may be you will find our ceremony right for Gerald and a fitting way to say farewell to this much loved and well respected man.

The writer and actress wrote the following words which I think Gerald may have approved of.

If I should go before the rest of you

Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone

Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice

But be the usual selves that I have known.

Weep if you must - parting is hell.

But life goes on so sing as well.

To begin our service that is what we will do now as we join together to sing our hymn, Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart, which is number 343 in the red hymnbooks in front of you. We stand to sing.

Hymn: Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart

Gerald was born in Sheffield on October 2nd 1958. As a baby, though, his family moved away from Sheffield, at first, briefly to Okehampton and then to North Tawton in Devon. There was a further move to Seaton in Cornwall when Gerald was about five.

Walton Road Sheffield. Gerald was born in No. 27.

He was the second child of his parents Gilbert, who was of Irish decent, and came from Dublin,and his mother Marian, whose family came from a small village in Cumberland called Cumwhitton.

Gerald on a visit to Cumwhitton, with his cousin, Susan Robley (centre) & his sister Bride. This picture was taken before he went to Australia

He had a brother Aidan, who was just 15 months older than Gerald himself, and they were later joined by their two sisters, Bride and Rona, who were born in North Tawton.

In the front garden of the house in Seaton

left-right Bride, Gerald, Rona & Aidan

Later in life Gerald would display great skill at problem solving and an understanding of how things worked and were put together. The early signs of the burgeoning talent were to manifest themselves whilst he was a baby when, having been put to bed in his cot, he worked out how to dismantle it, removing the bars so that he could get out. Having learned how to do this on his own cot he then set about doing the same to Aidan's, both of them then going downstairs to re-join their parents much to Marian and Gilbert's surprise.

His sister Bride remembered the time when, during his childhood, Gerald contracted Rheumatic Fever and as a consequence was confined to his bed for six months and was off school for the best part of a year. He told Bride that she had to be his slave and sent her on endless errands in response to his needs. She also became the scapegoat for his misdemeanors. On one occasion during this time, probably because he was so bored at being confined to his bed, Gerald painted a large letter 'G' at the top of the wall beside his bed. On being asked for an explanation by his parents Gerald's answer was simple - "Bride did it" he replied.

The House in Seaton (centre), the Scene of Gerald's Misdeeds. The House to the Left was reputed to be haunted. This intrigued Gerald and he called it the "Ghost House.

In the mid 1960's, when Gerald was about seven years old, his parents decided to emigrate. After a journey by sea onboard the Iberia, lasting nearly 5 weeks, the family moved to New South Wales in Australia.

Gerald's interest in practical skills and how things worked continued during his childhood. His sister, Rona, recalled that when other boys ran straight to the sweet shop when they received their pocket money, Gerald would instead head for the hardware store. There he would spend his money on a bag of nails which, over the following few days, he would hammer into anything that did not move! On Gerald's 40th birthday Rona would remember this early fascination of his and for his present she bought him something she knew he would love - you've guessed it - a bag of nails.

In 1971 the family relocated again, this time to Newfoundland in Canada. His mother Marian takes up the story.

As Andrew has just said, Gerald's childhood was spent on three continents, Europe, Australia and North America.

As a child Gerald had a habit of going missing but we usually did not have to search far to find him. All we had to do is look for the nearest building site where we would invariably find him watching the builders at work and learning their trades or simply sharing their sandwiches.

As a young child, whilst we were living in Australia, he volunteered to be a server at his local church where he often led the processions carrying the cross. Perhaps it was his attendance at church services and his connection with the church that laid the foundations for his love of music. He developed a great affection for the sacred music he heard there and also a love of classical music - especially Bach. He learned to play the violin and later in life, when living in Cambridge, he attended classes and constructed his own violin from scratch.

Humour was very much part of Gerald's personality and he always had a joke to tell. An early example of his humour, although at the time he was not conscious of just how funny what he said was, happened during a day on the beach at Seaton in Cornwall. Gerald would have been about four years old at the time and he was making an elaborate sand castle and examining the varied sea life around him. An old lady came up to him and said, "Well little boy, what are you going to be when you grow up - a builder?". Gerald considered this for a few seconds, looked around him and replied, "No, not a builder - a crab." The lady was nonplussed.

Gerald had many and varied interests. His first job, whilst still at school, was in a bakery in St John's. He was well below the age of part-time working and he looked guilty when I asked him how he had concealed his age. We let him keep the job thinking it would not be long before he was found out but he never was and he eventually became a legal worker. These were happy times for Gerald and he often spoke with fondness about his days in the bakery. One Christmas he arrived home carrying an extremely squashed cake. He had taken part in the Christmas celebrations at the bakery where he had consumed a large quantity of illegal alcohol and had dropped the cake several times on the way home.

Another early interest of Gerald's was computers. His school in St John's had a primitive computer and Gerald was fascinated by it. He worked on it every lunchtime whilst his fellow pupils were outside playing games. They all thought he was mad. One day there was a severe blizzard and the school was closed and everyone was sent home. Gerald was missing and we were very worried, imagining him buried somewhere in a snow drift. We rang the school but no one answered. Eventually, several hours later, he was discovered inside the locked school happily working on the computer. He was severely told off when he arrived home.

Thank you Marian for those wonderful stories.

When he reached adulthood Gerald found work at the Memorial University of Newfoundland where he worked in various departments. His earlier experience with computers paid off when he eventually secured the post at the University he had always wanted - that of a Systems Analyst. This was in the early days of popular personal computing.

Gerald as a Young Man camping on the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland.

Gerald met and married a local Canadian girl called Wendy and together they had two children, Katie, who was born in 1984 , and Ian who arrived two years later in 1986.

Gerald, Wendy and the children returned to the UK in 1988 with Gerald finding work as a Computer Manager. They initially returned to Cambridge but after a couple of years relocated to Norwich and later to Reading as Gerald's work took him to various employments around the country. They finally returned to Cambridge and settled here in the mid 1990's.

Gerald with Katie & Ian. This photograph was taken shortly after his return to England from Canada.

In 2003 Gerald and Wendy amicably decided to go their separate ways and were later divorced.

By this time their children were young adults and on the brink of independence with Katie already at University and Ian in his final year at sixth form college.

It is now my pleasure to ask first Ian and then Katie to come forward to share their remembrances of their father and to pay tribute to him.

Ian's tribute

I only have a few words I would like to say about my father, and that is:

My father was very much a man for going out and doing things, he couldn't sit still at home and do nothing for very long, He always had at least one or two of his "projects" on the go at any one time. Things like re-building a classic car from scratch, writing a book, making a violin and I can't even begin to list the number of various building and woodworking projects he was always working on. This, mixed with the number of places he has lived and worked around the world, meant he was never short of an interesting anecdote to or opinion to share with everyone.

Things like the time he worked at the Department of Chemistry at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and used to manage tanks of liquid helium, which is colder than liquid nitrogen, then one day whilst doing his usual routine managing these tanks, one of the valves at the top shattered and sprayed his hand with super cooled liquid helium gas, meaning is hand was frostbitten for weeks afterwards.

And whilst working in the same department, he was cleaning one of the chemistry labs, using a special kind of extra strength cleaning solution which produced large amounts of suds; he would fill a big bucket with water and some of this solution and clean the labs with it, but one day whilst leaving this bucket to slowly fill up, he was distracted and forgot to switch the tap off, only to return an hour later and to his horror, find the entire lab now filled up to the level of all the benches with soap suds, which were now foaming under the lab door and into the hall outside. He managed to clean it all up without much damage being done, but to say the floor of the chemistry lab was clean afterwards was probably an understatement.

But I feel that if any of us are to take one thing away from this today, that is that if you feel you have something you have been wanting to do for a while, but keep putting off, as all of us do. Go and make a start and get going with it, that first step you take into these things is always the hardest one, and one thing my father was particularly good at was taking the first step and getting things going, which meant he managed to achieve a lot more interesting and unusual things.

I think it is very much in the spirit of Gerald for me to make that point clear.

Katie's tribute

Looking around here today, I can see [so many people, and indeed] such a variety of people, as well as many more who are not able to be here with us. I feel that this really reflects the kind of person that my father was. I think that this was because he respected people for who they were and what they did, whether they were academically brilliant, skilled with their hands, or just really nice people. Dad seemed to generally like and get on with everyone... except perhaps taxi drivers!

He was always helping someone, whether it was fixing their plumbing, sorting out their computer, or even just providing them with some really good advice. He was incredibly generous with his time and energy; but then, he definitely did have a lot of energy!

I think most of you will agree that my Dad was an almost abnormally energetic person! It may well be true for many of us close to him that we feel that we have slowed down, felt at a loss or even ground to a halt... like a cart without a horse; stationary without its driving force. It is important that we do not allow this to happen to ourselves, but instead be inspired by how my Dad was, and perhaps keep a little of that energy for ourselves. He would never have wanted us to stop moving - he would have pushed us to keep on going and it is important that we do that not only for ourselves, but for him too.

He was also extremely positive. Right up until the very end of his illness, he remained adamant that there was always a solution. Throughout all his treatments (which, by the way, even though they were the strongest and most devastating, barely fazed him at all), he was still up and about doing something. During this time much to the amazement and sometimes dismay of his family, he continued to plan and execute projects he thought needed doing. These included climbing onto the roof of his mother's garage roof to fix a leak and undertaking the planning, building and fitting of an extension to the kitchen at the house he shared with Julie.

Finally, I'd like to talk about my Dad's sense of humour. Now, I could go on for ages talking about how he wound up pretty much every person he knew, but the story I'd like to share with you is in the last few days of his life.

[Story about nurses and rockclimbers]

Maybe this was just the amount of medication he was on, but I definitely like to think that he kept with his lifelong tradition of winding everyone up right until the end.

Thank you.

In September 2005 having met, perhaps not surprisingly, through the internet because of their shared interest in computing, Gerald took Julie out on a date at a local pub. They found they had a lot in common and as Julie put it to me, "It felt like we had known each other all our lives". Neither of them let the grass grow under their feet and before long Julie and Gerald had become 'an item' and had moved in together.

A short time later Gerald began to feel unwell and a consultation with his doctor resulted in tests which revealed that he had cancer. Gerald's reaction to this diagnosis was typical of him. Instead of feeling sorry for himself his first question was "Well, what can we do about it then". At the time both his doctor and Gerald himself were hopeful that he could beat the disease.

Gerald immediately began a course of chemotherapy followed by surgery. This would be enough to slow anyone down but not Gerald. As Katie told us earlier, he was not going to let his illness rule his life.

When it came to building projects Gerald did not suffer fools gladly. He would often come home and insist that Julie accompany him to a building project being undertaken by someone else so that he could point out in total disbelief what they had done wrong! He often appointed himself as the unpaid (and probably unwanted) site manager on the building projects of his neighbours becoming the forerunner of the Harry Enfield TV character who said "Now I don't think you really wanted to do that did you - you don't want to do it like that - you want to do it like this". Joking aside though there are probably many people, possibly even some here today, who have benefited from Gerald's help and advice.

In 2007, whilst he was putting the finishing touches to the extension to his kitchen, Gerald complained to Julie that he had a pain in his shoulder. They both thought he had simply pulled a muscle but because of his previous health problems thought it prudent to seek medical advice. An X-ray showed that his cancer had returned and had spread to his lung.

Although he must have been devastated by this new diagnosis, Gerald again remained positive and started a second course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. When, on completion of this treatment, Gerald was told that it had not been successful and that the cancer was continuing to grow aggressively he still refused to give up. He and Julie contacted the Royal Marsden Hospital in London which was offering cancer sufferers places on drugs trials but tests showed that his kidneys had become too damaged by the chemotherapy for this to be an option for him.

Although by this time his illness was beginning to slow him down Gerald still remained positive. As someone who had always been active he became frustrated by the affect his condition was having on his mobility as it gradually robbed him of the use of an arm and eventually his legs. Gerald's response to this was again typical "I'll just have to learn how to use a wheelchair", he said.

On Christmas Day last year Gerald asked Julie to become his wife and they announced their engagement to their families the following day - Boxing Day - a day of happiness amongst so many that had not been so good.

Despite his failing health Gerald remained determined that he would be able to make the journey to Yorkshire, a favourite place of both himself and Julie, where they had planned to marry. It will not surprise you to learn that he did indeed make this journey and he and Julie were married in Whitby on 5th March this year.

Julie has asked me to read the following words on her behalf.

Julie's tribute

Gerald was and will always be the most special person that I could ever have hoped to meet during my life. He was my inspiration, my strength and my soulmate.

The love that he showed me was like nothing else I have experienced and I will never forget that. Words simply cannot express how much I love him and will miss him.

I will remember how, every evening, Gerald and I would go for a walk just around the village. As soon as Gerald and I got to the bottom of the drive to start our walk our eldest cat, Pippin, who would not have been seen for most of the day, would suddenly come bounding out of a hedge at us. She would literally walk all around the village with us, sometimes behind, sometimes racing in front to show off. We absolutely loved it, specially Gerald, and he would have great pleasure when seeing other walkers (usually walking a dog) that we were in fact walking our cat!

Gerald was always saying how he was extremely proud of his children Katie and Ian and he would want them and us all to be strong at this time. Gerald was truly an amazing man and will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him.

And as a personal tribute to her husband, Julie wrote this:

My darling Gerald, so little time but so many wonderful memories and I am left with the knowledge that our love was so strong and would last forever. You are my life, my world and you will always be on my mind and in my heart forever. I love you so much. Rest in peace, my darling Gerald, rest in peace.

The remorseless advance of Gerald's cancer continued and he reluctantly agreed to be admitted to the Arthur Rank Hospice for a week so that they could try and control his pain. As it turned out his stay in the hospice was to last for two weeks as controlling his pain proved to be difficult. It was discovered whilst he was there that the cancer had spread to his spine and Gerald was gently told that there was nothing more that could be done for him. His wish was that he should end his days in his own home and his doctors agreed to grant this request. This was only possible because of the professional nursing given by his carers, the dedicated care provided by his wife Julie and his sister Rona, the supportive visits from Marian, Katie and Ian and the love of the other members of his family.

Gerald's determined and brave fight for life was lost last Wednesday when on 2nd April he died at home, where he wanted to be, with his family around him. He was just 49 years old.

We will now have a short period of quiet reflection so that you can remember Gerald in whatever way is appropriate for you. The music you will hear has been chosen by his wife, Julie. It is by Van Morrison', Have I told you lately that I love you'



Have I told you lately that I love you'

We say together the words to The Lord's Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Gerald will be remembered as a man who was fun to be with and who loved life.

He had a wicked sense of humour and no doubt many of you here today will have been on the receiving end of one of his many wind-ups. Maybe some of you have been offered the fluff covered sweet he kept for years in the pocket of his waxed jacket and which he would always offer to everyone just so he could see the look on their face. He had a joke for every occasion.

He was a man of energy and enthusiasm. As his son Ian said earlier, he did not just talk about projects - he did them and did them well. How many men could boast of owning their own cement mixer and scaffolding? Ian told me that when Gerald was confined to his bed as his illness got worse he was happier if he could see the cement mixer and scaffolding from his window than the view of the village!

He was an extrovert; he was kind; he was generous; he was loving.

He was selfless and always ready to help others. His sister, Rona, recalled how, without even having to be asked, he gave up a week of his time to help her move house without complaint or expectation of any reward.

He was a man of fortitude who faced his illness with stoicism and his death with courage and dignity.

He will be remembered as someone it was good to know and who made the lives of those around him better simply because they knew him.

You will all have your own memories of Gerald which will all be different depending on your relationship to him. These are his legacy to you and as such they are something you should treasure and hold dear.

With Gerald's passing Julie has lost a loving husband, Katie and Ian a doting father, Marian a treasured son and Aidan, Bride and Rona a devoted brother. Gerald has also left you all a huge responsibility because you now become the custodians of all his dreams and aspirations.

I have been asked by Julie and the family to extend a warm invitation to you all to join them afterwards at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge for refreshments and where you will have the opportunity to continue with your remembrances.

If you wish to make a donation in memory of Gerald, which will be used for the benefit of Arthur Rank Hospice Charities, you may do so either in the box by the door as you leave here today or later through the offices of Cambridge Funeral Services Ltd.

In a moment I will ask you to stand for our words of committal as we say our final goodbye to that part of Gerald that we are unable to keep. I will then ask you to sit again as we listen to our final piece of music, another favourite of Gerald's, 'The Romance from The Gadfly' by Shostakovich, during which the curtains will close and we will leave the chapel.

I would like to end our ceremony with some words chosen by Gerald's family which they think reflect how he would feel about today. They are familiar words and you may have heard before but their sentiment remains as powerful as ever.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush

I am the soft uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry

I am not there, I did not die.

Please would you stand.

Gerald, I speak on behalf of all your family and friends when I say:

We are proud that we knew you and we are glad that we were able to walk part of life's journey by your side.

We celebrate your life, your skills, your achievements, your character and your many fine qualities.

As we commit you to your end with nature we remember you with affection and with love we bid you farewell.

Closing Music:

'The Romance from The Gadfly' by Shostakovich

Written by Andrew Patey. Editorial details & photographs added by Marian Foster