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In loving memory of Godfrey Peter Duff who sadly passed away on 2nd December 2020.
Godfrey was born on 25th October 1952 in Buckland, Dover. The eldest of 5 children – Tony, Diane, Nigel and Trevor. Coming from an RAF family, his early life was unsettled by moving house many times and having to attend many different schools.
He initially left school at 15 with the intention of joining the RAF to become a fighter pilot as he loved flying, danger and the thrill of adventure. Unfortunately, despite passing all the necessary tests, he was prevented from following his chosen career due his short-sightedness. In 1968 his parents were posted to RAF Brüggen in West Germany and as Godfrey was at a loss to know what to do next, he decided to go with them. In order to do this he had to go back to school and do his O Levels at Kent School in Hostert.
He left school in the summer of 1969 and did a variety of jobs for the Forces, including Forestry, carpentry, as well as refurbishing and French-polishing Army Issue Furniture. It was during this time that he was able to pursue his love of flying by joining the Gliding Club at RAF Brüggen camp. At just 17 he became a very skilled pilot, gaining a Silver Certificate and entering the International cross-country gliding competitions in Dortmund and France. He was a trusted pilot, frequently being asked to take children up for flights as well as assisting with the rebuilding and repairing of planes. On one occasion he crash landed over the glasshouses in Venlo, Holland yet managed to avoid all hazards and brought it down in a field. The glider hit the ground with some force and fell apart around him but, miraculously, he stepped out unscathed with just a few bruises. He had crashed in the middle of nowhere, both the wings had broken off and his first thought was to try and find a telephone box so he could get someone out to pick up the damaged plane!
He joined NAAFI in 1970 as an admin assistant in the Personnel Dept at NAAFI HQ in Waldniel. He was always a “Hippy” at heart and in the early days had very long hair. At his interview he was asked to “get a hair cut” before starting work... which he did, of course... all of an inch! Joining NAAFI enabled him to stay in Germany and live in the hostel in Waldniel when his parents were posted back to the UK in 1971.
He first met Shirley in 1970 during her summer job in the Personnel Dept at NAAFI, she was 16 at the time and still at school (Kent School in Hostert) and Godfrey had to show her the ropes. However, at that time they did not get on too well and could never have foreseen 44 years of married life in their future. A couple of years later in 1972 when Shirley left school and joined NAAFI (where Godfrey was still working) they ended up getting together at a party at Dülken Mess and the rest is history.
Godfrey was sent back to Portsmouth to do his District Auditor training in 1974, he and Shirley got engaged in the Easter of 1975 and married in January 1976 in Southsea. They lived in a NAAFI flat in Portsmouth for the first year of their married life where their son Paul was born in early 1977. The following month they were posted to Münster in West Germany for 4 years, where their second son Lee was born in 1979 and then returned to Oxford in 1981 where their daughter Sarah was born in the summer of that year. After Oxford, they lived in Dusseldorf for 3 and a half years before moving to York in 1986, where they bought their first home. Whilst the family remained in York, Godfrey continued to travel to more exotic places for short periods, including Kenya, the Ascension Islands and then Belize for 10 months. The reward for his dedication was a long posting to Cyprus in 1989 for the next 4 and a half years.
Whilst in Cyprus Godfrey discovered his love of the sea and sailing. He became a member of the Happy Valley Sailing Club where he learned to sail and regularly took part in the competitions. As usual, he did nothing by halves and not only became an avid sailor but also did his RYA certificate, became an instructor and learned to drive the Rescue boat, becoming part of the Rescue team. He loved his life in Cyprus and often spoke of his time there, having BBQs, sipping Keo beer with friends by the sea, eating halloumi and lountza with a “Filfar” liquer (or two) to finish. Whilst in Cyprus he became involved in the first Gulf War when he flew to Diyarbakır in Turkey - in uniform - to set up the NAAFI supplies for the troops on the front line.
When the family returned to York in 1993, Godfrey continued his travels with NAAFI. He spent 2 years in Germany from 1994-1996 and then made various short trips to Cyprus, Gibraltar and Germany after that. During this period he also became an Adult Education tutor and taught evening classes in computing for York Learning for a number of years.
In 2011 Godfrey had to leave NAAFI due to ill health after 40 years of loyal service. It was then that he discovered a new skill when he began volunteering for York Leaning. He became a classroom assistant, helping out in classes for people with learning difficulties and invigilating the exams. In this role his quiet patience and ability to deal calmly and quickly in a crisis situation really shone through. He enjoyed this part of his life very much and was very sad to have to give it up in 2019.
Godfrey always claimed he was “Peter Pan” and could survive anything. His strength, determination and positivity were second to none and over the years he survived many brushes with dangerous and tricky situations – to name a few:
“Falling from the back of a boat in shark infested waters in Belize and just managing to scramble back on board in the nick of time.”
“Being mugged whilst driving in a jeep in Belize and being left unconscious by the side of a dirt road.”
“Almost being set on fire, leaping off a bonfire he was dowsing with petrol just as someone was igniting it from the other side.”
“Being mistaken for a terrorist and being stopped by the German Police at gunpoint whilst driving home from work on the Autobahn.”
“Avoiding a highly poisonous snake in his quarters in Belize... By tossing an unsuspecting cat at it... Everyone knows snakes are afraid of cats!” (I have to add that the cat was unharmed).
Above all, Godfrey always believed he was privileged to have had the opportunity to lead such a varied and interesting life. He loved growing up in the 60s and always felt lucky to be alive. He loved a challenge and to him nothing was insurmountable. Despite being given only 3-5 years to live at the start of his cancer journey in 2012, he was determined to “beat it” if he could and managed 8 years before he finally lost the battle.
Godfrey was a very loving, caring husband and father; he will be sadly and sorely missed by all his family.
“Rest in Peace Godfrey” for now you can really fly like Peter Pan...