John Hawken (Memorial Service 16 June 2017 at St Edward’s)
At his funeral service in April, I related some personal memories of John and I make no apology for repeating some of these today in the belief that those of you who were present then will not object to hearing them again.
For me, John’s association with and service to this church is put into some perspective when I realise that my connection has been for more than 45 years and his was for considerably longer. Indeed, I would estimate that it was something like 60 years ago that John became aware of St Edward’s when passing by on a bus one day. From the mid 1950’s he had lived in a prefabricated bungalow at Michigan Way in Little America with his father and step-mother. It wasn’t until at least 20 years later that the prefabs were demolished, the site subsequently re-developed, and the present housing estate built.
Anyway, John decided to come and visit the church and the Vicar at the time, Rev Charles de Cerjat, learning of this, contacted him and eventually invited him to become a Server. It would seem that this was an inspired decision, for it gave John, a young man with a mild learning difficulty, a purpose in life and some responsibility to which he was able to respond and fulfil.
So it was that over the intervening years he assisted four of Eggbuckland’s incumbents with the preparation of the vessels used for the bread and wine of the Sacrament and tidying away afterwards. It would have been difficult to have found anyone more dedicated to the task and to St Edward’s. John could always be relied upon to undertake his duties when required, quietly and efficiently. He was an ever-present on Sundays and most other church occasions and became well loved by all who came to know him.
John enjoyed company. He appeared at ease with everyone – those he had known for some time and those he had only just met – he liked nothing better than to share his travel experiences. These almost invariably included churches, pubs, tea rooms and pasties. It was if public transport had been laid on especially for him. He was familiar with all the local routes and had no second thoughts about hopping on buses beyond the city confines to all points north, east and west, exploring wherever it was he decided to visit on any particular occasion.
On a Sunday morning here in church, his face would light up with glee when asked where he had been the day before. Not that he needed the invitation to relate his latest gallivanting – he was just as likely to say, “Guess where I went yesterday?” And then he would relive the experience in the telling and always let you know the quality of any refreshments, especially if they had included a pasty.
There was so much more to John than anyone meeting him for the first time could imagine. His interests in steam trains, photography and following the daily happenings at Ambridge were important to him and gave him much pleasure. The care and stability provided by the staff of Silvermead was a major factor in John’s quality of life.
However, undoubtedly the catalyst for his confidence in coping with life and developing into the man he became, was his membership of and the friendships he enjoyed here at St Edward’s where he grew in faith through the knowledge he gained from his most cherished Bible.
Sunday mornings are not the same without you, John.