Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Ferdie: A family's farewell
Dad’s Eulogy (Three parts: read by Celia (daughter) Mavis (daughter-in-law) and Jake (Grandson).
Part 1 Read by Celia: For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Celia – Ferdie’s youngest daughter. On behalf of my mum and our family I would like to thank all of you for coming today to pay your last respects to our dad. And to thank all of you for your messages of condolence and support since our dad passed away. As all of you will know, dad was a very organised and well prepared man, so much so he even got me to the church for my own wedding before the priest! Well in keeping with that, dad wrote part of his own eulogy for us. Which we have added onto and will now share with you.
FERDINAND J.E. RODRIGUES Born 10th December 1933, in Jinja, Uganda, under British Administration, where our grandfather was serving in the Forestry Department. At the very tender age of 6 he and his two elder brothers were sent for schooling in India, whilst their parents had to work in Uganda. Indeed those were during World War 2 days and there were no adequate schools in Uganda.
Dad finished High School in Poona at the young age of 15, it would have been earlier but he missed a year because of a bout of typhoid. He was too young to be employed and so he was sent to the School of Accountancy and ended up with a Diploma in Commerce. Later he went on to qualify as a Fellow and Graduate of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. Dad was successful in Outward Bound Courses, at Loy-toki-tok Kenya, and then at Eskdale in the Lake District. He was also a Council member of the prestigious UK Trade Marks, Patents and Designs Federation; a member of the British Institute of Management and of the Institute of Travel Agents. Again, at the very young age of 16, he joined his dad and his two elder brothers, by entering into the British Civil Service as a simple typist and he went on to pass the Executive Officers examination. Over a career of 21 years dad was promoted from a Junior Assistant Secretary, to Assistant Secretary, to Senior Assistant, to Principal Assistant and at the time of his early retirement he was Under Secretary in the President’s Office.
Dad survived the coup by Idi Amin. He served under President Obote and President Idi Amin with great respect, dignity, distinction and trust for dad and with no political involvement. In fact he was one of only three rewarded by the Uganda Government’s award of the Uganda Republic Medal. During his outstanding civil service career, dad carried out many special assignments and to mention a few - He was fully responsible for the administration of the 3rd Inter African Public Administration Seminar; for the 13th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, the Organization of African Unity Summit, the Commonwealth Medical Conference, and above all, he was put in overall charge of the arrangements for the Visit by Pope Paul VI to Uganda and to the whole of Africa in 1969. He always remembered that President Obote told him that he was in charge of all the visit and that finance was not his problem.
The Vatican honoured dad on the success of the visit in the form of a knighthood – Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great. He was also honoured by the Queen, with the Uganda Independence Medal. Dad was Secretary to the Commission for the integration of the Local Government Judiciary into the Uganda Government Judiciary. He was also Assistant Returning Officer in the first Uganda General Elections; Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into Immigration Officials, and Secretary to the Committee for the Prerogative of Mercy (I.e. for people sentenced to death).
Dad drafted the Memorandum and Articles of Association and the Rules for: The Goan Association in the UK, (which still stands), for the Bexley and Bromley Advocacy; for the British Organization of People of Indian Origin of which he was the General Secretary. And various others. All of which are still in full force. Dad was Rover Scout Leader, Secretary of the Outward Bound Trust of Uganda, and a member of the Outward Bound Trust of East Africa. He was Secretary of the Uganda Mountain Club, held various positions at the Entebbe Goan Institute, including President and Vice President. He was also an Entebbe Town Councillor, Governor of various schools in Uganda and in the UK and Director of the Lions Club. Dad was President of the UK Goan Association and held other senior positions on the Board. Together with a few other Entebbians, dad founded the Uganda Reunion, which is still going strong. Sports wise - he played football, volley ball, hockey, table tennis and cricket. In fact in Uganda he was called a Sticky Wicket as he was invariably sent in as the opening batsman. And he was still there, when all the others had been bowled out! Dad was the Uganda National Champion in Darts, and voted the Sportsman of the Year by the Entebbe Goan Institute. He successfully climbed Kilimanjaro several times, Mt. Kenya. Ruwenzorri, Elgon, Moroto, Ben Nevis and Snowdonia.
Dad was always proud of us, his children, and our achievements. He was heartbroken when Desmond passed away. Desmond by dint of his hard work and dedication rose to be Captain (four stripes), with British Airways. Susan a Professor, Malcolm in the education Department, and Celia an Architect. Dad felt that we all had achieved all that he wanted for us. But now, I believe that dad has gone to a better place to be in the company of his beloved son Desmond, his brother Leo, his parents, and his in-laws. As his older brother, uncle Armand said; to die completely a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead. Dad will not be forgotten. He will live in our hearts forever. He leaves behind a lasting legacy. There is hope and inspiration for all of us in the life he lived. Mavis would now like to share more of our personal thoughts of dad.
Part 2 read by Mavis: Ferdie was brother to Armand, Placie and the late Leonido. They were close knit, enjoying each other’s company, playing pranks on friends and languishing in the freedom and idyll of their young lives. They enjoyed an intellectual heritage from both parents, their mother having trained as a medical doctor. Armand describes Ferdie as being simply, one of a kind. Ferdie was husband to Blanche for 57 years starting life together in Mombasa, then Entebbe, Goa and England. Blanche recalls a life which was wonderful in Entebbe especially, enriched within a community of Goans and other cultures– friends whom they’ve continued to maintain strong links with in England.
Family life was important to them both not just involving their children but also their own parents and extended family. Blanche also remembers their collective love of travel – which they have passed on to their own children. - fond memories of packing 6 people into their bottle green VW beetle and driving to Heysham to take the ferry to Belfast for a summer break at Uncle Rene’s home, or a fantastic family adventure on board ship with Rover the dog to meet Uncle Savio in Goa. Ferdie and Blanche also enjoyed time time together on many holidays – to Scotland for example – travelling along & exploring the entire coast from West to East. Ferdie was Dad to Desmond, Susan, Malcolm, and Celia; also father-in-law to Gerry and myself.
His children describe him as extraordinary, a giant of a man not just because they were in awe of those achievements we have heard about – but because he was extraordinary as a father. He invested so much time, energy, & tender love into his family. He would roll up his sleeves without thinking twice to get involved – cooking the staple gammon and pineapple when Blanche was away, or gently declining an invitation because he had a pressing engagement – which usually meant that he wanted to do the ironing.
To Ferdie – the small successes were just as important as life’s big achievements. He was as equally proud, for example, of his incredibly fast touch- typing skills as his many accolades. As a family man, he didn’t just relish playing sports with the children, or organising boating trips, museum visits, holidays here and abroad, he also proof-read and typed many of their dissertations, theses and books. He may not have known the detail they studied about computing, chemistry, biology or architecture, but he was always able to give invaluable feedback and advice. He was practical too, making things from scratch like a baby-changing table for the grandchildren with handy storage for nappies wipes and changes of clothes – or the elaborate pitched roof for the fish tank made using just the right twigs foraged from Bostall Woods. Besides this, we remember also how he fixed - time and again the Formula 1 pedal car which made speedy journeys through 4 sets of grandchildren. People were important to Ferdie – he invested time to get to know a person. He had an easy manner which meant that he could tailor his conversation to make you feel at home. He would take time to enquire about you and to understand what was important to you.
Helping others was also in-built into Ferdie. He could not see others in difficulty. He would spend a great deal of time working through complex legal matters to assist someone who had asked for his help - or would work tirelessly to iron-out an injustice – because it gave him pleasure to use his skills in order that life be made simpler for others and for their roads to be easier. He was blessed with the most wonderful sense of fun. Ferdie loved to hear a good story. He appreciated the good planning construction delivery and timing of a story.
He himself was a master at this. He was asked frequently to raise toasts at weddings and to give speeches at special events and celebrations. He had a life packed with experiences and he would use these to pepper conversations and make them come alive, holding us in thrall for long periods and always finishing with a bright sparkly laugh. Like the story of how a flat tyre, had when he was out with Uncle Placie in Uganda was solved by stuffing it effectively with grass until they reached a real tyre repair shop. We will continue to repeat those wonderful stories and pass them on. It will give us such pleasure to do so.
We cannot imagine that this giant is stilled, but we reluctantly let him go with the promise of meeting again. This giant has earned his rest. I will finish with powerful words from his daughter Susan which sum up the essence of a beloved father: “An extraordinary man raised me. He believed in me. He inspired me, although I never really told him. I hope he understood how much he’s done for me. And I miss him.”
Part 3 Read by Jake: For those who perhaps don’t know me, I’m Jake, a grandchild of Ferdie’s and I will be sharing some memories of our grandad on behalf of the grandchildren. Wise, dependable and witty, Ferdie Rodrigues was our grandad. I first met grandad almost 18 years ago on 29 November 2000, the day I was born, but my earliest memory of grandad begins in the living room. If grandad wasn’t taking me cycling round the block or making paper aeroplanes with me, he would get the electric train set out and we would lay it down around the front room, using video tapes to make tunnels and bridges. Now of course the train did just go around and around the circuit, and I’m sure eventually it was us driving him round the bend rather than the train, but grandad always seemed invested in our interests, as big or small as they were.
I’m sure most kids are fascinated with dinosaurs at a young age or even 10 years later, and Liam and I were no different. I can distinctly remember trying to teach grandad the names of the toy dinosaurs that I had and he more often than not, would deliberately mispronounce their names for our enjoyment, only for us to sternly correct him of course! Liam’s memories of grandad stem from the grandad’s cheekier nature. He often liked to make fun of us in Konkani or Swahili, and even to this day we’d have no idea of what he was saying, but there was always that faint grin, especially after he told us what the words meant but we always knew it was going to be cheeky. Grandad would always tell us stories of his younger days, like when he was chased by a rhino in Africa or his numerous Kilimanjaro climbs, and we’d have to just check with grandma if he was telling the truth – most of the time he was! When we were younger and had started to lose our teeth, grandad would always tell Emily and I that the gap in our teeth likened us to members of the Acholi tribe, who he’d met on many an occasion, and I’m sure we’ll be saying that for years to come. As with many things, when we would play cards on a Saturday evening, grandad would typically say that he didn’t want to play – he was too tired, the games went on for too long or he was just bored. Slowly but surely grandad would make his way to the table without fail just to “check no one was cheating” and eventually he would make his way into the game. When we were younger, grandad would sit with us and coach us to become good at rummy, showing us the best move to play in each situation.
Liam and I remember grandad for being an excellent card player, who as all sportsman do, would make excuses when he didn’t win and would always show off his jokers in rummy – a trait we’ve definitely inherited. Grandad was the first to teach me to play chess and after I managed to beat him a few times, we’d switch to draughts or carrom and to this day I don’t believe I’ve ever beaten him at either! Emily was one of the lucky few allowed to give grandad Indian head massages and he’d always ask her how much he should pay her, knowing at such a young age, Em would be satisfied with even the smallest price.
Em and I would help grandad collect apples from the big apple tree in the back garden so he could make apple pickle. Em was taught the entire process and grandad let her taste the apples from different jars, so she would be able to understand and appreciate the different flavours. I can distinctly remember Emily trying to make her own pickle under grandad’s supervision – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! As my mum previously mentioned, grandad devoted love and attention to our pedal kart and would call us Schumacher or Hamilton.
He would tell us of how Patrick and Jessica were fast drivers and that we should try and be faster and of course we tried and tried with only a few accidents here and there. And as a result, grandad would always fix the kart ready for another grand prix in the garden. My fondest memory of grandad is perhaps one of my most recent. Not the days of playing cricket in the back garden, neither when he would laugh at Liam and I about our football teams, but when I told grandad that I had become Head Boy at Bexley Grammar. Of course, I was proud of my hard work, but in some ways, it seems grandad was more impressed. Without fail, both grandad and grandma would ask me about my new responsibility and meeting with the headteacher, but it wasn’t until Speech Day that I realised that my hard work had made grandad very happy indeed and that is a moment I will savour for the rest of my life.
Naturally, it’s a fact that without grandad we would not be here today and he lives on in each of us as grandchildren: in Patrick, grandad’s determination, Jessica, his dependability, Emily, his eloquence, Liam, his sporting prowess, in Amaaya, his considerate nature, in Joshua, of course his cheekiness and I’d like to think I’ve got grandad’s “sense of humour”. We will all miss grandad, but we have faith that his legacy will be succeeded by us, by our parents, and by his numerous friends and family. Since grandad was an avid Arsenal fan, everyone has their faults, I feel that it’s only right to end on a quote from Arsène Wenger, former Arsenal manager, when he left the club this year: “Thank you for the memories. My love and support for ever
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