Tony Clarke passed away on Christmas Day, at 12:10 (01:10 UK time).
He was 4 days short of his 91st birthday.
And it was the 70th anniversary of the closest thing to a 21-gun salute that he ever received.
(Perhaps I should explain. He was on a cruise in the North Atlantic, halfway to Iceland [wrong – off Portugal!], when his relaxation on the ocean waves was interrupted by the Admiral Hipper, which attacked the convoy he was in. The photo on this web-page is of the Rangitiki, the ship that he was on at the time).
Until about 5 years ago, Tony remained in substantial control of his life. Carole then needed to do the shopping for him, because his knees would no longer get him around the shops. (We acquired a Brit war pension for him in July 2010, because the damage originated in April 1940, en hurried route back to Dunkirk). A couple of years later, he passed the management of his financial affairs to Carole, and agreed to a cleaner from the village coming in once, then twice, per week.
A year ago, Tony had an 8-hour abdominal operation that would have been too much for most people of significant age. After 3 or 4 weeks, and various warnings that it was unlikely that he could ever go back to his self-care unit in the Village, he won the battle and went home. He continued to cook for himself. But he did need increasingly frequent visits to help him manage his medications.
Then a skin cancer below his lip took control. Radiotherapy proved ineffective. The last 3 months have been very hard work for him and Carole, and during the last 3 weeks he's been in three different hospitals. The very last week, in the Palliative Care ward, they progressively got on top of the pain, but that of course chipped away at his consciousness.
He was very much (a slightly more forgetful version of) himself until a month or two ago. And he was sporadically himself well into the last week, with music and dead-pan humour featuring prominently. During his last few weeks, he enjoyed many visits by his grandsons Lachlan, and particularly Owen; and he finally became genuinely enthusiastic about his energetic 20-month-old great-grandson Troy.
Carole, Peter, Owen and Lachlan were with him at the end. Roger and Linda arrived from Canberra 10 minutes later, and Kasia, Brendan and Troy, and Russell, a couple of hours after that. He can't say we didn't care.
There will be music at the funeral in early January, and, despite it being the middle of the summer holidays, we're pretty confident that his last choir will be able to muster a small ensemble. [They did – 25 people, in the midst of the summer holidays, from a choir of under 40 registered members.]
This is a page within Roger Clarke's Family Web-Site
Contact: Roger Clarke
Created: 27 December 2010; Last Amended: 9 January 2011