Following the death of DBF President, Joan Bader, OBE, on the 18th December last year a private cremation was held for close friends and family at the very beautiful Aberystwyth Crematorium.
On Saturday, we marked her death with a Thanksgiving Party to celebrate her long and full life and her tireless work for the Douglas Bader Foundation, started by family and friends following the death of her husband, Sir Douglas, over 35 years ago. This was an occasion for her wide circle of friends and family to get together to pay their respects at her favourite pub, The Boot at Stanford Dingley, near her beloved home, Withers Farm in Marlston. Here, she and Douglas had spent many years together and where Joan lived on until a stroke forced her to move.
It was poignant for all who knew her to walk into The Boot knowing she wouldn’t be there to enjoy her own party but soon the inn was bursting at the seams with about 90 people gathering to look at the many photographs, to share memories and to marvel at a life well lived and certainly lived to the maximum.
Once guests had been offered a glass of Pimms on arrival, David Bickers, Joan’s much-loved son-in-law and Foundation CEO, talked about Joan, his first meeting with her and Sir Douglas and his ensuing work with the charity he was instrumental in setting up following Douglas’s death on September 5th 1982. Guests were then able to tuck into the delicious and plentiful buffet supplied by John Haley, the owner and manager of The Old Boot.
Keith Delderfield, the Bader Braves Events Co-ordinator, then gave a speech about his travels with Joan on various trips with both the Bader Golf (set up by John Southwick, ably assisted by his late, and much-missed partner, Pat) and with numerous walking and cycling fund-raising trips to far-flung corners of the globe. Keith’s words, which conjured up so many happy memories and much laughter, and the photo boards on show, left no-one in any doubt as to Lady Bader’s commitment to and involvement with the DBF. Even at 85 and suffering from a broken hip, she was accompanying a cycling group in Cuba in 2003 and, notwithstanding her own considerable pain, was encouraging the cyclists on the way. The Bader spirit in spades! Keith ended his speech by saying that he suspected that everyone remembering Joan Bader couldn’t help but do so with a smile.
During his speech, Keith acknowledged the wonderful and invaluable support that John Southwick, Founder of Bader Golf, and Pat had given to the charity over the many years of both The Bader Cup and The (Ladies) Salver tournaments raising over £350,000 in the process – an extraordinary achievement. Wendy McCleave, standing in for her mother, Joan Bader, presented John with an award. A beautifully crafted and immensely lifelike sculpture of Sir Douglas golfing. She apologised that the acknowledgement was long overdue and explained that, while the decision to commission and present the sculpture had been made immediately following John’s retirement, her insistence on the sculptor, Peter Close, capturing Sir Douglas in mid-swing had given him months of sleepless nights trying to work out how best to create the golf club to render the shaft thin enough for realism while being strong enough not to snap! She regretted that the delay had meant that Pat, who died last year, was unable to be there for the presentation. John Southwick gave a funny and moving speech about his times with Joan, particularly at Bader Golf Finals. Bob Rance, who had accompanied and helped Lady Bader on several trips when her mobility became more of an issue, was also awarded with an engraved Peter Close bust of Sir Douglas. A small thank you for the amount of laughter they shared during their travels!
Golfing Bader – Sculpture by Peter Close presented to John Southwick in recognition and appreciation of his support of the DBF
Above: John Southwick receives his presentation. L-r: Keith Delderfield, John Southwick, Wendy McCleave, Charley Bickers, David Bickers
Below: Bob Rance receives his presentation from Wendy McCleave
After another food break, Dick Richardson, a long-time friend of Joan Bader and manager of Popham Airfield – another place she loved and where she spent many happy times – spoke about their meetings and his fondness for her and had everyone laughing at some of his reminiscences! Indra, a local friend, told a great anecdote about her first meeting with Joan which, after a somewhat fiery start resulted in Joan offering to caddy for her! It’s hard to imagine a less amenable caddy but seemingly she didn’t manage to put Indra off her game…! A little later on, Paul Hoppenbrau, son of Jack, an old friend of both Joan and Douglas and a wonderful character who as well as being the closest neighbour, was instrumental in the renovation of Withers Farm, spoke about some of their shared times; escapades which quite often ended up with at least one car being pulled out of a ditch!
It was a good day, full of happy memories, and one which we felt sure Joan would have thoroughly enjoyed. Sadly, there were several absent friends but we all felt sure that they had joined her to be at the event in spirit at her home-from-home in Stanford Dingley.
A big thank you to all who came to make such a memorable event and to John Haley and his team at The Old Boot for creating such a wonderful feast to mark her send off.