Saturday, October 18, 2008

Alan David Roots

My brother Alan died at work last week; his funeral was yesterday.

I had the honour of writing his eulogy, which the vicar read out yesterday to over 100 mourners - family and friends from the village, the marsh and further afield.

Alan David Roots
20 June 1955 - 7 October 2008

In the front garden of the house in Orgarswick Way where Alan was born, you can find a stone with the following poem inscribed on it:

"He sits amongst the summer flowers
and only counts life's sunny hours;
for him dull days do not exist,
the brazen faced old optimist."

If ever a poem could describe a man, this poem describes Alan David Roots, whose life we have gathered here today to commemorate.

Alan was born in Dymchurch in June 1955, the fourth child and third son of Anne and Walter. The family was part of a tight community: Alan was baptised in this church and would later sing in its choir. He went to school at Dymchurch, and later New Romney. He never left the Romney Marshes for more than a few weeks at a time - this was his place, his home. He was a true Marshlander.

The defining moment of Alan's life came when he was just six years old, falling seriously ill with diabetes. For thirteen weeks Alan was hospitalised by the disease, where he became known - infamously - as the "red devil" for his constant running through wards and corridors in his bright red dressing ground, causing havoc and laughter in equal measures.

But it was not the disease that defined Alan, rather it was his determination to own his disease - to bend it to his will and not let it rule him - that made him the person that many later came to know and love.

Alan could never stick to a diabetic diet. He always preferred real chocolate over diabetic chocolate. And while his iron will on these matters led to some close medical shaves over the years (and worry for his Mother and siblings), nobody could overrule his determination to live his life as he saw fit.

At school, Alan discovered a passion for football, and for one team in particular - Manchester United. His greatest dream was to become United's goalkeeper. And while such dreams were not to be, Alan did win a national newspaper competition when he was seventeen; his prize was to travel to Old Trafford to watch United play, and to meet the team afterwards.

Beyond school, Alan was active in a number of areas, for instance joining the Army Cadets where he made the rank of Corporal. But his main love was exploring the marshes around the village - fishing, shooting, watching. He also took great pleasure in the beach and the sea, and was featured on one of the Dymchurch postcards in the 1970s leading a line of donkeys across the sands.

It's reasonable to say that Alan was fairly accident-prone as he grew up. He crashed his bicycle several times - once memorably managing to destroy the side of a car with the cricket bat he had wedged in the handlebars of his bike.

Driving was another of Alan's passions. Once he had learned to drive, little could stop him from getting behind the wheel and heading off - if only down to the local shops. He owned and drove a number of different cars over the years, but was particularly proud of his black sports car with its rigid plastic bucket seats.

When the time came to choose a career, Alan decided to train as a chef. Unfortunately, the heat and pressure of working in big town kitchens affected his diabetes - though in later life he returned to catering, working in a number of small hotels and pubs both in Dymchurch and further afield.

If there is one pub in particular that Alan will always be associated with, it's the Ocean Inn. He drank there, he worked behind the bar and in the kitchens there, he played darts and cards there, he was actively involved in the formation and running of the pub's very own football team.

Alan loved people. He was always interested in meeting new people and catching up with other people's news. The needs of his friends was often more important to him than his own needs. He couldn't stay angry with anyone for long - friendship always trumped emnity in Alan's view of the world.

For a short while, Alan even represented the people of Dymchurch on Shepway District Council - nominally as a Liberal Democrat Councillor, though he had little time for tribal Party Politics.

Alan worked at Portex for over 25 years - he has a clock for long service from the firm to prove it; later he got a job as a warden on the Hythe Ranges - a job that allowed him to indulge his interests in bird-watching and ship-spotting.

It was at work, on the ranges, where Alan died, from a massive and totally unexpected heart attack. That he died so quickly and painlessly can only be a small consolation to those he leaves behind: Anne, his mother; Paul, Shirley, Andrew and Richard; his many uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces. His many, many friends and colleagues.

We shall never forget him; and it is with our deep love and gratitude for his time in our lives that we send him, reluctantly, into God's loving embrace.

1 comment:

  1. I may be coming at this a little late, Rik, but please accept my commiserations for your loss.

    I guess if we have to go, then quick and relatively painless is the preferred option, despite, as you say, the small consolation to those left behind.

    I'm not a praying man but my best wishes are with you in your time of grief.

    Take care.