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For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Frank’s daughter, Vanessa.
I know a lot of you have known me and my Dad since I was a child, and some of you have known my Dad since before I was even born, when he rocked a pair of bellbottoms and the mighty Kevin Keegan hairdo.
My Dad lived a full life, and a lot of you have shared memories with my Dad partying, holidays and antics that I as a daughter should probably never know about, but what I want to share with you today is the Frank who was a wonderful father, and grandfather, to me and my daughter Jasmine.
One of my Dad’s favourite quips was ‘You’re talking about the man I love’…and that’s exactly what I’m going to do now.
Dad was a lifelong Crystal Palace fan. One of my earliest and favourite memories of my Dad is when he indoctrinated me into the religion of football fandom, and Selhurst Park was the alter at which we worshipped, to watch the mighty Palace. I remember many games standing on the terraces, I carried the pork scratchings and he carried the cans of Carling, as well as several trips to Wembley for FA Cup and promotion play-off games. More recently we watched the games together from the warmth and comfort of home, right up until the weekend before he passed away.
As a kid, he taught me how to swim, and how to hit a rounders ball. I still vividly remember him coming to one of my sports days at school, and him cheering me on as his advice ‘always keep your eyes on the ball’ ran through my mind and I hit the ball what felt like a mile, but in reality just far enough to get a full run, and his pride at my sheer disbelief and joy.
As I grew up, he was fiercely protective. He took me clubbing when I was 19, yes he was that Dad, and scowled at any man who dared to look in my direction. I honestly thought my dating days were over there and then!
I remember his love of cars - the capri, the lancer, the honda prelude, the Mercedes. I remember how handsome my Dad was, and how he was always happy and cracking terrible yet still funny jokes. I remember his love for an Hawaiian shirt or two. His passion for travel and adventures. His stories from those times, like when he hung out with Ronnie Biggs on a trip to Rio De Janeiro, when he nearly got shot in Miami, and had a gun held to his nose in Spain by the police.
He became a grandad at the age of 48 and it was by far his proudest moment. He was a great Dad, but he was an absolute melt for his granddaughter Jasmine. She definitely took my crown as favourite child.
Despite being a bit cantankerous at times, he was selfless, generous and supportive. He never raised his voice to me, and believe me that was not easy because I was no angel. I know I tested his patience many times as I grew up.
Yes he loved his football, cars, and beer – although as he told us all regularly, ‘alcohol was not his god’ – but he was also an artist, very creative, practically talented and could turn his hand to anything, as his beautiful garden shows.
I used to tease him that he built so many walls and structures in that garden they could be seen from space, google maps would declare ‘the great wall of Cheam’ as a new wonder of the world, but I was so in awe and proud of his talent. You couldn’t slide a cigarette paper through his carpentry joins, they were that good.
He loved a party, and making people laugh, but in reality my Dad was an introvert, he was intelligent, deep, thoughtful. He had a lot of knowledge and a huge interest in the existence of intelligent life beyond our universe, the pyramids, politics, films, to name just a few. He was an absolute sponge with learning new things, and would enjoy imparting this knowledge and debating and sparring with both myself and Jasmine as she grew up.
Since my Dad was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, he went through so many tests, treatments and procedures that caused him untold pain, yet he rarely complained to me. He maintained his humour throughout, he was quickly on first name terms with the nurses and doctors at The Royal Marsden, who he flirted with outrageously and tried to make laugh at every given opportunity.
He bounced back more times than a rubber ball. He recovered from his stem cell transplant much quicker than the average person, it was like he was indestructible. He was also receiving treatment to strengthen his bones, almost like a bone cement, Hence I nicknamed him Wolverine, which always made him smile, and stuck with him until the end. He never gave up fighting. The day before he passed he said to me, I can see this going on for months, I feel fine.
Sadly it was sudden and quicker than we all thought, but I am grateful he did not suffer anymore than he already had.