Just over a year ago I wrote about our neighbour Harry and the way everyone rallied round when he was in need (click here for the story). With the care and attention he received from his neighbours, he was able to survive another year, until his death a couple of weeks ago when he had a fall from which he didn’t recover. Harry was 92.
He was a man who kept himself very much to himself, and although he had lived in our road for over 40 years, even those who lived next door to him and the two who made it their responsibility to care for him in his final year didn’t really know very much about him. Nevertheless, in spite of being very deaf and almost blind from macular degeneration, he had managed on his own for many years after the death of his wife. A little Jack Russell dog was his long-time faithful companion, and the two of them were a familiar sight as they trotted up the road to the Park whatever the weather.
In his self-sufficient way, he had arranged and paid for his funeral well in advance, though there was a general chuckle throughout our little community when it emerged that he had only ordered the hearse and no cars: what’s the point in paying extra to hire cars for mourners when everybody going to his funeral has their own car anyway? Having had virtually no contact with any of his relatives for many years, Harry also saw no point in leaving them any of his worldly goods. Everything he owned is going to the dogs’ home that provided him with his beloved little dogs.
Harry didn’t impinge very much on the lives of his neighbours, but his departure has left a gap. No longer will we watch with our hearts in our mouths as he clambers up the ladder to clean his windows or remove the leaves from his gutters. Never again will we hear him arguing on his doorstep with the District Nurse and telling her to leave him in peace. We all knew that Harry was capable of bitingly witty remarks, but I learned yesterday that he had actually been a member of Mensa and had won trophies from this organisation. I also learned that he had been a young soldier in the Second World War, enlisting at 18 and serving for 6 years in the Far East.
D, the neighbour who spent a great deal of time with him in these last 12 months, getting him up in the morning and making his breakfast, ferrying him to doctor’s appointments, helping him with everyday tasks and generally acting more like a son than a neighbour to him, told me this, adding, “He wouldn’t talk about it, though.” That isn’t unusual. Most of the men who served in the horrific theatre of war in the Far East haven’t wanted to talk about it, and from the few facts and stories I have heard, I am not surprised.
“He was a funny old b*gger,” commented D. “But with all he’d been through one way and another, he deserved to be!” May he rest in peace, and remain well remembered as one of the characters who brightened our little neighbourhood.