When my father was given his diagnosis of terminal cancer of pancreas on October 17th 2011 this changed my whole world, which then only had two things that mattered, my father and my family.
Sadly that list has now shrunk to just my family. My father died on 20th November, just 34 days after his diagnosis was confirmed. He died at home with my mother at his side holding one of his hands and I was holding the other. There was no pain at the end, he just stopped breathing and slipped away. Six weeks previously he and I had been on a roof top re-pointing ridge tiles, now he is gone. I miss him already and know I will ask my self every day “What would my dad do ?” Don't ever miss an opportunity to tell someone what they mean to you. Don't let precious time just slip past.
My dad, Derek, has been married to my mum Aileen (nee Outhwaite) for 57 years. They had been sweethearts since she was 16 and he was 17. Many of my friends have remarked that they have never met a more devoted couple. It would be wrong to say they never had a cross word, a family story records one falling out before they were married that lasted two years and which, according to my father, was reconciled when my mother “came crawling back” My mother obviously has a different recollection of how they got back together.
Family was everything to my dad. In addition to me they also had a second son, my younger brother David (49), who is a Director of the Austrian National Oil Company and currently lives in Budapest. My dad was always extremely proud of David’s achievements but at the same time sad that his career took him so far away from home. My parents also have five grandchildren. Their two youngest grandsons, Charlie and John, are still at boarding school. Two granddaughters, Rosemary and Ria, are both at University and their eldest grandson, Edward, is an engineering cadet with P&O Cruise lines, something that my father was especially proud of considering his own national service was spent at sea as a Merchant Navy Engineering Officer. One of my few regrets is that my dad was not being able to see Edward march in this year's rememberance parade wearing his Merchant Navy Uniform. Sadly my dad was just too tired by then to make the trip round to the sea front.
My dad was born in 1931 and attended the Hartlepool Boys Technical Day School. Like many a Hartlepool lad before him he served his time in the drawing office at British Steel before joining the Merchant Navy as an Engineering Officer with the Empire Line. While in the Merchant Navy he served on troopships for both the Suez conflict and the Korean War. My dad's involvement with the sea did not end when he left the Merchant Navy as he was a member of Tees Sailing Club for many years and was Commodore of the club in the 1980's. He was an accomplished table tennis player in his youth and a keen cyclist. In 1951 he and a group of friends even cycled to London and back to see the Festival of Britain. He hadn't played competitive table tennis for many years but he still went for a ride on his bike nearly every day.
After completing his national service Derek retuned to Hartlepool and worked in Port Clarence at British Steel (Chemicals) where he was the Works Engineer until his retirement in 1995. After retiring my dad took my mother on various holidays to visit many of the ports he had called at during his time in the Merchant Navy. This included far east destinations such as Honk Kong and Shanghai. My parents loved Hong Kong and also made two trips to China to see the Forbidden City, the great Wall and the Terracotta Army (or the Territorial Army as my mother called it!). My dad's engineering background however was never far behind and the Three Rivers Hydro Electric Scheme in China was something that impressed him tremendously.
My dad never lost his inquiring mind or his love of a challenge. He and my mother took up skiing when they were in their 50's and he became an accomplished downhill skier before an accident on the piste, where a novice skier collided with him, left him with a damaged knee and ended his involvement with the sport. At 80 years of age he was “the man who can” for several people in Hartlepool when it came to computer problems. I would regularly come home and find my PC had been upgraded without my knowledge since my “hard drive partition was not the latest version” or some other reason that was gobbledygook to me but not to my dad.
I could go on and on. As a Rotarian he visited Rumania to work on a children's hospital, the conditions under which these children lived, and died, was one of the few things I ever knew to make my dad cry. Until 2007 my dad was Chairman of the Hartlepool Headland Parish Council and a Hartlepool Borough Councillor, an Independent member, he had no time for party politics in local government, he thought local councillors should represent their communities and not play party political games. He applied his considerable carpentry skills to building more than one sailing dingy in the basement at home, he could dig a trench with a JCB back actor and drive a bulldozer. He and I worked together to build my current house and last year our family project was the installation of a ground source heat pump, which is currently saving me over £2,000 a year in heating oil bills. However, I think one of the things he would be most proud off are a bunch of flowers that arrived for my mother after his death. They are from friends of his granddaughter, Rosemary. The flowers made me cry but they were a fantastic tribute. Several of these young people are coming to his funeral on Friday because they loved him like a granddad of their own.
RIP Derek Allison 1931 - 2011