Thursday, 12 May 2011

Don's speech at the funeral

Steve Henry Goodfellow

Good morning everyone, I’d like to say a few words about my good friend Steve Henry Goodfellow, who will probably be looking down this morning on this august gathering with a wry grin on his face, wishing desperately that he could be here to say a few words to you all himself.

Firstly though, to Julie, Ben and Abi and the rest of his immediate family here today, may I express my heartfelt sympathies to you on your loss. Steve was a great husband and father and I share in your bewilderment as to why he, of all people, should be struck down so horribly by such a pernicious disease

What words can I say that might capture the essential spirit of a man who had such a joy and zest for life, and who judging by the number of people attending here today, was a much loved and admired individual.

Perhaps, if you would allow me, I could provide some anecdotes about my relationship with him that might illuminate what Stevie Gee (as I liked to call him) was all about. The football fans amongst you will hopefully appreciate the delicious irony in the Stevie Gee reference

We first met in 1979 whilst working for an American Oil Company called Phillips Petroleum - two likely lads hailing from Sarf London who hadn’t done too badly from an educational point of view. Steve unbelievably was employed as a trainee accountant, and I as a trainee commercial manager. In those days Steve had a beautifully full head of hair (including a quiff) and I sported a well maintained 70’s looking afro, full of black hair with nary a hint of grey or silver.

Our individual and deep sense of fun meant it was inevitable we were destined to become big mates and combining that with a competitive edge to everything we did, meant that we cemented a strong and enduring relationship.

In the early days, our fairly puerile sense of humour nearly got the pair of us sacked by the oil company for a series of pranks that came unstuck on more than one occasion.

·        Ascot and the Chief Exec
Ø      Phillips social club manager organised a day at Royal Ascot for Phillips employees, transportation from our head office in Victoria to Ascot was to be by coach
Ø      Steve and I forged the Chief Exec’s signature, requesting two seats for him and his wife at the back of the coach, just in case they might want a bit of a kiss and a cuddle on the way back
Ø      Social secretary was very proud the Chief Exec had booked onto the trip, but then he spoiled our fun by hassling the Chief Exec (or at least the Chief Exec’s PA), for coach fares

·        The Chief Exec’s Fan Club
Ø      Our Chief Exec was a man from Kentucky with the unlikely name of Earl B. Guitar
Ø      Steve and I spent a good deal of time preparing and distributing Earl B Guitar Fan Club membership packs that contained
§         a life size cardboard cut-out of Earl to examine in the privacy of your own home and break the ice at parties
§         Play Bert Weedon in a day self help guitar guide (Google Bert if you don’t get this…)
§         Entry into a competition where the top prize was the chance to duet with Earl Guitar at Nashville’s Old Oprey Theatre in America

·        Drilling Application
Ø      We submitted an entirely fictitious drilling application to the Department of Energy seeking permission to begin exploratory drilling in Knightsbridge
Ø      As supporting evidence, we cited the secret (and made up) geophysical and seismic data we had commissioned, which led us to believe there was a rich seam of oil producing hydrocarbons …..under Harrods

In each of these examples, we narrowly avoided being exposed through the timely intervention of the Chief Exec’s PA who for some strange reason liked both of us, thought we were funny and could hold off those folk baying for our blood, with unbelievable charm and sweetness

We also shared a deep love of music in all of its forms. He taught me a lot about rock ‘n’ roll, and I like to think I switched him onto jazz, blues and an occasional bit of hip hop. We also attended a good few concerts together from Pink Floyd to Marvin Gaye. In fact the last concert we attended together was the Roger Waters gig at the 02 in 2008. Although I didn’t know it at the time, sadly this would be the last time I saw my good friend Steve.

Many was the time we hooked up for a night out, or a BBQ, or other social event, and at the end of the evening Steve would strum his guitar and I would sing the blues. A really good memory remains in my mind of these times, and I think there are still some photos in existence that show these impromptu jam sessions were more often than not fuelled by some excellent and exotic ales.

The other thing that really defined our friendship was a very keen but healthy competitive edge. Those people who know both of us will know something of the nature of that competition. It didn’t really matter what the sport was, there was always a full blooded encounter between us…
·        Squash (I knocked one of his teeth out with my backswing, he peppered my body with the squash ball if I strayed too far in front of him on court)
·        Marathon tennis sessions in Corfu that drew crowds because neither of us was prepared to concede a single point willingly.
·        Swimming competitions. He was good at swimming, I couldn’t swim and he once challenged me to a diving competition, then when he found out about my inability, he took great pleasure in taunting me horribly  
·        Golf (a wild slice in his early golfing career caught me square in the back of the leg as I was looking for my ball)
·        Impromptu dancing competitions in night clubs around South London

Time moved on, and Steve met and married the lovely Julie and together, they started their family, the tall feller Ben and his beautiful sister Abi. I was pleased to be made to feel very much a part of his new family.

At the same time, Steve started to develop a successful career in the property management and financial services industry. This success was based entirely on his own work ethic, his exuberant personality and his wicked sense of humour. These qualities seemed to endear him to and charm the pants of most people he came into contact with. I think it speaks volumes that his business at its height was a hugely successful concern, with 9 or 10 offices across the area, bearing his name. As far as Steve was concerned, his name stood for “we do things right around here”, and he was very fierce about guarding his reputation in this regard. Employees or directors who failed to uphold these values did not usually last that long at his company. Personnel management was old school and robust, but the company prospered as a result.

In 1997, I too got married to my wife Louise and we were very pleased that Steve, Julie and his family, became part of my extended family, and were able to join us in those celebrations. As usual, he was at his most charming, effusive and humorous on my big day and even my Mum (not normally impressed with many people, or my friends in particular) commented that he was such a lovely man and that she wished she were 40 years younger.  

Steve Julie Ben and Abi got to know my sons Harrison and Max very well. In fact when Harrison was born, Steve decided to nickname him Paddington on account of our family name being Blair. In recent years we haven’t seen quite so much of each other as perhaps we should have. Raising kids isn’t easy, work these days seems to be all consuming, and generally getting on with life seems to eat up a hell of a lot of one’s free time.

However, I think we all need to make a big effort to find the time to see those that you love and care for. I guess that’s a lesson we can all learn, and we shouldn’t continue to excuse ourselves, so to speak. Despite this, I’d like to think that good friends understand these pressures and challenges of life, and we try to pick up with friends wherever we left off the last time we met, because true friends live in our hearts and minds always.

I didn’t know anything at all about Steve’s illness until Julie called me with the devastatingly sad news of his passing. This week I read Steve’s online blog and that shook me even further. Typical Steve really, he didn’t want me to know about (much less witness) his deteriorating health condition. He wanted me to remember him in fine form battling against me in whatever sport we had chosen - and I cannot really blame him for that. It is indeed how I will remember him.

I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Julie and his wonderful kids for looking after him so well during his illness. Can I also say a big thank you to those friends here today who supported him through his illness.

Rather selfishly, I am saddened that I didn’t get the opportunity to say goodbye to my friend before he passed away. I hope that my few clumsy words here do him the honour I feel for him in my heart.

So how do you sum up a man such as Steve Henry Goodfellow. He was a loyal, hugely social, friendly, up for a laugh, competitive, exuberant, successful and loving kind of guy. An all round good egg and I loved him like a brother. I’m proud to say that I knew Steve Goodfellow and that he was a good friend of mine. Like so many here today, I will miss him deeply.

I keep looking up in the sky for the brightest star Steve, because that would obviously have to be you, shining down on us all.

I’d like to finish by sharing this small bit of prose by David Harkins that really spoke to me. I hope you are similarly affected.

You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all he's left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him, or you can be full of the love you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he's gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back, or you can do what he'd want; smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Thank you
Donovan Blair
7th April 2011

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