We'll really miss you John.
Donate in memory of
JohnCancer Research UK
- Cheltenham Crematorium (South) Chapel Bouncers Lane Cheltenham GL52 5JT
- 8th Apr 2016
- Funeral Director
- Ian George (Funerals) Ltd
Judy his wife of 42 years says -
John was born in Newton-le-Willows near Liverpool in October 1950, second son to Fred and Nest. Although his brother David is 4 years older they have always been close. Fred was a sign-writer and talented at amateur drama, especially old time music hall where he often brought the house down with his clever comic turns. Their mother Nest was the daughter of a Welsh mine owner but she died when John was 9 so he couldn’t remember much of her character.
The family moved to Cheltenham in 1959 when Nest became ill and it was thought the better air quality would benefit her, but very sadly she died soon afterwards, aged just 42. Fred brought the boys up alone, and married Val when John was 17. This union brought the gift of another brother, Paul.
John left school when he was 15 as he had a job to go to, servicing domestic appliances, where he was already working on Saturdays. He never really enjoyed school but he liked art and pottery, perhaps because he was quite good at it and had a teacher he respected. When he got bored he was a bit of a rebel – he didn’t want to stay on and take exams, and he says they didn’t want him to!
John and I met through mutual friends in 1972 and we married in June 1973 at St Mark’s church in Cheltenham, both aged 22. John became self-employed around the same time, starting his own domestic appliance repairing business, and I stopped work to help him by making appointments and taking on the book-keeping. This seemed a good time to start a family and our two much loved children, Dominic and Natalie were born in 1976 and 1978 respectively.
When the CB radio craze was in its infancy around 1981, John got into it as a hobby, and this quickly became a business with a shop selling the radios and aerials. As this flourished he gave up the domestic appliance business. He also started to design and customise aerials to order in his workshop. As CB became mainstream, he lost interest and gained his Radio Amateur licence which involved passing the Morse Code exam. He then made shortwave aerials for this market including designing specialist aerials, such as telemetry between the pit and the racing cars for the Benetton Formula One team, and a few in desert camouflage were made for the government, destination never revealed. He made an aerial for Eastenders for communications across the large set. I was then a great fan of the soap, and was not impressed when he later casually mentioned that he had declined an offer of a visit and tour of the set!
In 1990 his much loved father Fred died aged 71. Also in 1990, having become accomplished at DIY while renovating their various marital homes, John found a building plot and project managed the building of a new house for us, completing much of the work himself. This led to him being offered other building work in the vicinity which he enjoyed, but he carried on with his aerial business and after leaving school Dominic worked with him for about 3 years before pursuing his career in IT in London.
With the advent of the internet and mobile phones the radio market naturally declined so in 2006 John qualified as a Corgi gas engineer, working first with his old friend Pete, and then on his own account. This business continued until he was diagnosed with cancer last June.
Over the years, John’s only formal training was for the ‘gas safe’ qualification and the radio amateur licence - everything else was self-taught! Among many others, I received this message which shows how much John was appreciated, not only for his professional skills but also for his friendly nature:
‘John was always a cheerful, friendly figure who was very good company. He had a very positive outlook on life, and one came away from talking to him feeling one had been encouraged. This positive outlook was particularly evident as he faced up to the reality of serious illness. He was never downhearted and kept going. It was amazing to see him help friends with various building projects right up to his last few days. I really admired him for this and he set a wonderful example. We will miss his friendly smile as he sped by in his van to his next assignment.’
In 2010,our daughter Natalie married Simon, and we became proud grandparents when Freddie was born 4 years ago, followed by Elizabeth last year. John was never happier than when spending time with his children and wider family.
John also had many hobbies throughout his life, which he always liked to do properly, getting the right equipment and becoming pretty much an expert in each one. This could get quite expensive but there were no half measures with John!
He made excellent home brewed beer, converted a Mini for grass track racing with Dominic who was then 13. They competed all around Gloucestershire, and had a lot of fun, sometimes to my great alarm, watching them hurtling around a field at full speed with the other cars, with the occasional crash or somersault thrown in.
John learned to cook curries with his father who was brought up in India, and when I started working full time again in 1995 he took over all the cooking, and especially loved entertaining, expanding to a wide repertoire of restaurant standard dishes. He could never be persuaded to enter Masterchef, though guests suggested it on more than one occasion!
A mid-life crisis resulted in the purchase of a motor bike, but this enthusiasm didn’t last long and he eventually sold it.
He bought a small forge and taught himself wrought-iron work, making beautiful metal bed frames for the house, among other things.
He enjoyed coarse fishing and had a shot-gun licence and an air rifle until recently. There were many rabbit stews and pigeon pies as a result! It may seem at odds with these hobbies that he really loved seeing wildlife and bird watching.
Photography was always a delight for him, and he learned how to use various lenses and filters to take some stunning landscape and close-up shots. He also enjoyed the social side of the club he joined, as described here by two of his fellow photographers:
‘I remember some lovely days with him at Westonbirt and Gloucester Docks, snapping away, cracking jokes and sampling the local ales.’
‘He was funny and witty and made me laugh, he was a gentle and kind man and I’m sure will be missed by everyone who met him.’
John took up golf in his 50s and played with much enjoyment at Painswick Golf Club until eventually his back couldn’t take it and he had to stop.
We took up skiing in our late 40s but these holidays ceased in 2003 after a trip to France with friends created a huge love for that country and we bought a run-down stone cottage in South west France and have spent every holiday from then on renovating it. This was our dream home for our long planned retirement due to start this summer, but sadly now not to be.
John always had an interest in woodwork and, over the years, armed with a lathe and other worryingly sharp machinery he created bird nesting boxes, a chalet-style garden shed, an oak dining table, window frames and even an oak staircase at the house in France. He cut the tip off a finger in France but shrugged it off, putting it down to experience. He did a lot of the renovation work on his most recent project, our bungalow in Woodmancote, including constructing the roof timbers on the extension and installing the bathrooms.
His lifelong interest in electronics meant he built his own computer in the 2000s, and recently a drone which he flew in a field near the house with Dominic.
John sounds like a paragon, but of course no-one is. He could be impatient with opinions other than his own, and tended to think he was always right. Annoyingly, he often was – but not always! A strong character, his sometimes short temper mellowed as he got older, and his wit and sense of humour were remarked upon by all who met him. He could do very silly things to entertain his grandchildren, with young Freddie entranced by his practical jokes. He was gregarious and generous, always happy to help people out. He was my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him.
Not only was John a much-loved husband, he was also a treasured father and grandfather. Our daughter Natalie says -
‘My father was always fun to be around, and our relationship developed naturally from playing when I was a child into a solid friendship in adulthood; he was always a pleasure to spend time with. Our family unit was a strong and stable one, and we had many, many good times. While my mother taught me most of my cooking skills, Dad inspired my love of Asian food and I will take the Barker tradition of curry-making and pass it down to Freddie and Elizabeth. I will also make sure his home-made wok burner gets some use from time to time.
He showed me that you don’t need qualifications or company support to progress in the world, amazing me time and time again with his enthusiasm for learning new skills, and the products of these will live on. Although he was impatient at times (something I’ve inherited), his sense of humour was the largest and best part of his character; we had a lot of jokes, and his micky taking and sarcasm were evident right until the end. I am so proud of who he was and what he achieved – he loved, and was loved by, my mum, brother, me and all his family, and was liked immensely by so many friends and people he met over the years. I know that he had a good life, just a shame it was cut short. I will miss him dearly’.
His brewer friends recall his good humour and sense of fun. They feel sure that he will enjoy and influence the brews on offer in the Celestial Bars. Other friends remember how John could talk about almost anything with knowledge, humour and without prejudice, and they admire his enthusiasm for life, his many interests, and his ability to apply a simple logic which meant he never saw a problem or, if he did, not for long.
And just one final message, which perhaps says it all:
‘John was such a lovely man, caring husband, wonderful father and a doting Grandpa. We were so fond of him. Always the same, fun to be with, extremely clever and creative, although too modest to ever say so. An all-round very special person. Happy memories.’