In celebration of the life of Harry Hammersley (May 5, 1932 - July 20, 2012) father of Angela Gilchrist and Patrick Hammersley

'What a Wonderful World' - The words sung by Louis Armstrong in one of Harry's favourite songs, summed up his view of the world. The tribute that follows was given by his daughter, Angela Gilchrist, at his Memorial service held at Arbor Village, Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 2, 2012. 'My father had a knack of seeing what was good, beautiful and enjoyable in the world, and he based his life around this philosophy. He was a remarkably cheerful, happy person, whose life was a celebration of all that was good and enjoyable. Few would have realised that his life began inauspiciously - badly, and sadly. Born during the Depression in London in 1932, his Mother gave him up at birth as she was unable to care for him. He never knew his father. To be born out of wedlock was terribly stigmatised during those times and my Dad struggled with issues of being unwanted, which had great import for his identity. For many years, he was called 'Harry Brown' as he did not know what his real surname was, or indeed, his actual birth-date. He was eventually fostered by a maternal aunt and her husband; and he took her husband's name, Hammersley, although he was never officially adopted. I mention these events merely because it makes my father's happy, sunny nature all the more remarkable when seen against the context of his beginnings. We have to ask ourselves, how was it that someone could be happy and optimistic given this backdrop of events...? At the age of 17, Dad joined the Royal Air Force - and as we trace through the history of his life, it seems that it was during his air-force years that he began to gather a coherent identity as well as esteem for himself. Here, he found camaraderie, and a sense of belonging. He learned essential skills which led to his career as an aircraft engineer and more latterly, in engineering generally. It was when my father was in the Air Force that he met my mother, Gladys. At the time, he wrote in a letter to his Aunt: 'I have met a dream girl, but I don't know how we shall marry, for I am hardly worth a dime'. But marry they did, in the summer of 1953. I remember that it felt important for my parents that they had married during the summer of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. It felt like a new beginning, both for them and for England, as a whole. Nine months later, my brother, Patrick, was born and three years later, I came along (his daughter, Angela). But my father had itchy feet. He longed for new experiences and to see more of the world. I remember well in 1968, how he called a family meeting and asked us whether we would like to go to South Africa. My brother was game, my mother and I appalled. But we went, anyway. Soon after our arrival, my mother declared that she would not be staying - but stay we did, for many decades. My father loved South Africa from the moment he arrived, and it's important to note that he became a South African in every sense of the term. While my mother remained at heart an Englishwoman, my father's preference was for his adopted country and he began a lifelong love of it, its climate, especially. I remember our house always being filled with people. My parents were great hosts, but my father especially, and he was seriously good fun. He drew people towards him with great ease, young and old, as his sunny disposition worked its special magic on those around him. He loved music, good wine and food and he was at his best when in the company of others. But he was more than just a 'Bon Vivant'. He was extremely conscientious in his work, never taking a day off sick. He taught me always to be punctual and impressed upon me the idea that 'if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well'. When he became demented, it was his briefcase that he sought for comfort and when he was confused, he was confused because he thought that he should be at work. By his own admission, he never recovered from my mother's death 12 years ago. She met a tragic end after infection set in after what was ostensibly a minor surgical procedure. She died within a week of the operation and my father mourned her for the rest of his days. As my father grew older, I began to fear for him, living alone in South Africa and I tried to impress upon him that we would need to have a plan in place as he entered the autumn of his life. But he would hear none of it. He was determined to stay in South Africa, in his beloved sunshine, even if that meant being alone, forever. When his partner, Cecilia, came into his life perhaps some seven years ago, now; it was as if he had been granted a new lease of life. They spent much of their time together and I was delighted that he had found love again. But alas, Alzheimer's disease soon began its cruel march towards him. In April of 2010, I was called to South Africa by his doctor who told me he didn't think that my father could manage at home anymore. A terrible scene awaited me when I arrived. My father was recovering from pneumonia, but remained weak and frail. His bills were unpaid and he could not remember whether he had eaten or not. He had reached the end of the track. At speed, I had to find a place for my Dad, get his affairs in order and his house onto the market. It took me five weeks to gain control of his life and my father then entered Arbor Village Frail Care Centre, in Bedfordview, South Africa. It was never easy for him to be at Arbor and one can only marvel at the strange mysteries of the mind that he always imagined that he had just arrived, and that he would soon be leaving. This was the strange existential space in which he lived while he was there. He imagined Arbor Village to be a hotel - one in which he told me often, 'The service isn't too bad, the food is good and it's really quite all right'. He positioned himself as the manager and invited those around him to make their complaints to him. (This has to be seen against the context of his having been in management for many years). His sunny disposition again came to the rescue, for despite the ravages of his illness, he never fell into depression and cheerfulness remained his companion. But I was never happy at my father being alone in South Africa and I struggled mightily behind the scenes to manage his affairs from England. The challenges were numerous. I thus began a plan to bring him to England, but it was a daunting challenge, indeed. The grim reaper was moving ever closer towards him and we were in a race against time as I struggled to finalise the necessary plans while my father grew all the more frail. Dad, I moved heaven and earth to try and help you, and I would have moved the stars too - but God wouldn't let me. He called you home on July 20, 2012, just nine days before I was due to come and collect you, so that you could join us in the UK. God works in mysterious ways. But somehow, I think you would have wanted it like this. Perhaps it's appropriate that you died beneath the African sun that you loved so much. And perhaps it's even better that you were spared the worst of the grim and relentless disease that had you in its terrible clutches. I shall miss you Dad, as shall we all. We'll remember your happy nature and your wide smile, for yours was a life in which you embraced all that was Bright and Beautiful. (Followed by the Hymn, 'All Things Bright and Beautiful').

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