Eric Bernard Grogono, M.B, B.S., died on Wednesday, December 22, 1999, at the age of 90. He was survived by his wife, Clare, who died six weeks later. His funeral was conducted by the Reverend Anthony Moore in Aldeburgh Parish Church on Wednesday, December 29, 1999. The service was attended by many friends and members of his family. The tributes, provided by his three sons, are printed below. They explain some of his life as well as the affection which he extended to others and which was reciprocated by all who knew him.
|Eric Bernard Grogono|
We are here today to grieve the passing and to celebrate the life of my father. As the youngest of the three brothers I would like to spend a few minutes reflecting on some of the ways Dad has influenced my own life. Although it is almost impossible to prioritise them in any meaningful way, I have selected five aspects in particular.
Perhaps the most important is the value he has always put on family life - and the stability which he gave to the whole family with his happy marriage. His devotion to our dear Mother, which was reciprocated in full, has been an example to us all.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly in terms of my own career, was the patient way in which he passed on his many practical skills to me - initially with carpentry and then with practical engineering skills. These skills have stood me in good stead throughout my subsequent engineering career.
Thirdly, something which will be very familiar to many of you here - Dad was an excellent sailing instructor in the fullest sense of the word. From knowing just how close one can sail to the wind (and the mud!), from seizing ropes ends correctly, understanding weather systems, navigating and recognising early signs of danger at sea, Dad was always a patient and helpful instructor.
Fourthly, as I look back I now appreciate the trust and responsibility he bestowed on us from an early age. I could give many examples but perhaps the best one was being given responsibility for his 48' ketch "Sonia" with a group of totally inexperienced college friends - at the age of 18. I have tried to follow the same example with my daughters, Laura and Joanna.
Finally Dad has bred into each of us, I believe, the importance of caring for other people. This is something which is becoming increasingly difficult to find time for in the busy lives we all lead. I intend to follow his example. His grandchildren have asked me to say what a wonderful grandfather he has been to all of them.
We all miss him dearly.
I wish to endorse Andrew's remarks about grieving the loss and celebrating the life of my father, a very special individual. I wish to give you a short account of his career in medicine, and of his exploits in sailing, and then describe two attributes which helped make him unique.
He studied maths and science at Oundle, always near the top of the class, but still finding time to play the flute up to the level of the other soloists - all professionals imported from London, in a rendering of Bach's B Minor Mass. He went on to the London Hospital, following previous generations of Grogs. He won the Surgical Dressers prize. He lived and studied surrounded by siblings and parents at home. He met my mother. He performed memorably in Hospital Christmas Shows. He qualified before his 22nd birthday and did one of the best House Surgeon's jobs. He then heeded the need to help his own father in busy General Practice in Stratford and East Ham. This allowed him to marry earlier than his contemporaries who stayed on to train as consultants. He had already been courting my mother for some years and we - his sons - were beneficiaries by having such youthful parents.
In the mid 1930's he moved to join an old established practice in Woodford Green, where my mother came from, and there followed happy years of family life up to the war, producing along the way Alan in 1935, myself in '37 and Andrew in '42. In the war he was ordered to stay put for a year or so, doing air raid duty by night and tending the sick by day. He went into the navy, spent 18 months on a submarine depot ship in Scotland and made one very hazardous trip into the Arctic Circle in a sub. He then went to the Far East for two years as ship's doctor in a fleet repair ship.
Post war came decades of busy, busy work in General Practice, successful as evident by his extreme popularity with his patients. He became a skilled anaesthetist at the Jubilee Hospital. He was founder member of the Royal College of General Practice and one of the initial Council members of that organisation. He gave the lectures in General Practice to medical students at The London and he sat on far too many committees.
He retired gradually from the age of 65 onwards, returning one day a week to see "Old Faithful" patients in Woodford after moving to Aldeburgh. After retirement he remained interested in medicine generally and in the affairs of his College. He supported the Campaign against Health Fraud, a particular favourite of his because he disliked humbug. He gave occasional doorstep advice on his rounds of Meals on Wheels with my mother. These continued until they were older than all the people on their circuit, and only stopped quite recently.
I must now tackle his sailing exploits. He raced, cruised, and held office in various yacht clubs. Before the war he won many races in Redwings and National Twelve footers. After the war he inherited "Turquoise", an Alde 15' from my grandfather, and spent ten years teaching us all racing skills and winning many more races. In the 1950's and early 1960's I was lucky to be paired with him to sail in Bembridge club boats in the Old Boys sailing and, again, he won many races, more when he helmed than when I did. Finally, he bought "Green Ginger", his Loch Long, and when accused of joining a geriatric Class he said, slightly plaintively, that he was already older than all the other helmsmen.
Alongside this racing activity he cruised extensively in "Sonia" and later, in "Callegro" and made numerous trips up and down the East Coast, across to Holland, and twice down Channel. Mother came with us as she said she would rather drown with the family than have them drown without her. He passed on these cruising skills to all of us, and allowed us to skipper alone at a very young age. On the administrative side he was the founding Commodore of King George Sailing Club in the Thames Valley. He was also a long serving General Committee member and, later, Vice President of the Aldeburgh Yacht Club.
The first of his attributes I wish to mention is his craftsmanship and inventiveness. He designed things. Prewar, he designed a planing sailing dinghy with a gallery round the back to carry the crew out and aft. It was ingenious, original and impractical. During the war, he designed and built a 20' dinghy with a sliding seat, strangely similar to the Hornet which appeared some years later and which, maybe, stemmed from his design. We'll never know.
After the war his workshop was a hive of activity. He was a natural engineer. He designed and made gadgets for patients. The ones that come to mind are the one-handed tripod which was a pre-Zimmer frame made in wood. He also made a device for old ladies' to lock and unlock front doors from upstairs by means of straps and pulleys.
He entertained us by modelling. I remember a lightweight twin step hydroplane, dangerously overpowered with a model diesel engine, and a slab sided model sailing catamaran with all the curvature facing inwards. Most of his inventing was done without recourse to the drawing board. He originated the concept of the Pre-Design Construction Phase - get the tools out first and go to the drawing board later!
Finally, he played a huge role in our family's sailing hydrofoil project. He was a co-owner of Icarus One and Icarus Two, constantly helping in the design and construction. His workshop was where it all happened. He therefore carries personal, as well as genetic, responsibility for whatever we achieved.
The second attribute I wish to mention is his capacity to give and inspire love. He formed one equal half of the most loving marriage I have ever seen or heard of - a tough act to follow for three sons - though each of us achieved it after the odd false start - and this itself is a direct tribute to him and our darling mother.
He displayed a warm, uncomplicated, and unsentimental, love towards all of us near him, mixed with compassion for those who were his patients. I long ago lost count of his ex-patients who came my way always with this same story of his love and compassion. This capacity for love is shared in equal measure by mother. The way it has been poured into us, his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren has made this extended family what it has been for so many decades.
I loved him.
Last night, as we prepared for this service, Andrew, James and I talked about the words we would say today. We thought we might overlap, and repeat the same stories. Instead we enjoyed reminding each other about father's range of interests, his originality, his charm, and his leadership. We certainly shared the affection and admiration, but we all had different stories to tell.
Thanks to retirement, and to Anthea's support, I have been with Father and Mother for most of the last eight weeks. If I talk first about his illness, it is because it is still uppermost in my mind. He fell ill from an overwhelming infection and was quickly admitted to hospital. Early on I sat by him and listened many times to what, I knew, must be his last breath. And yet, each time, he breathed again and, when awake, talked lucidly and entertainingly about his beliefs, his interests, and his wishes.
While he slept I occupied my time finishing a task directly triggered by him. Before I ever went to school, he passed on his love of mathematics and taught me about magic squares, those intriguing arrays of numbers in which each row and each column adds to the same total. Now, sitting beside him I wrote a website devoted to all aspects of magic squares. As I did so I reflected that the skills I needed, the inquisitiveness, the confidence, and the fascination with science and mathematics, all stemmed from him, and now his illness allowed me to finish what he had started sixty years earlier.
What else had he started? Andrew and James have mentioned sailing. I echo their admiration for the education he gave to us in small boats. He also taught us to make decisions and take reasonable risks. As children we bemoaned the fact that the tide, or the breeze, or the opening of some unseen bridge or lock gate, always required us to waken at 5.00 am to raise the anchor. Now, later in life, I am proud that Anthea and I rise happily at 5.00 am whenever our tide, or our breeze, calls us.
I remember being with Dad on the old Sonia, unsatisfactorily anchored in Harwich, and his deciding we would be safer out at sea. I also remember our doubts as a short sharp snowstorm blinded us and deposited an inch of snow in the old tanned mizzen sail. And, I remember our relief when, shortly after, the sun shone and we warmed up a little and knew he'd made the right decision. His love of sailing was combined with great generosity. When Anthea and I married he allowed us to honeymoon on his brand new yacht "Callegro" despite his overwhelming desire to sail her himself.
I also remember the Grogono garage firework factory. Did other parents allow their children to roam the forest claiming undetonated German magnesium alloy incendiary bombs? Did other fathers teach their children how to file the bombs to make the shavings which added brilliance to our little conical Mount Vesuvius fireworks. I remember father's detailed instruction for making the casings, tightly packing the outer black powder cylinder, and loosely filling the ignition core to make spectacular rockets.
Father patiently taught us how to use and care for a wide range of tools which we used ashore and afloat. While he lay in Ipswich hospital, I would come back to Sol Backen to tackle minor jobs around the house. I went out to Dad's workshop and found saws, planes, and chisels, all perfectly sharp, all ready to use, all neatly sorted. I still picture him patiently teaching us how to hold a chisel against a spinning grindstone and how we had to wet the chisel to keep it cool.
Later after he had returned to Aldeburgh hospital, we would come home for supper and, at his direction, would raid his collection of his home made wines. The family was reluctant to sample his initial vintages. This quickly gave way to pleasure as he perfected yet one more skill. Even in the week before he became ill, he was still fermenting and bottling his own wine.
Music was another of his loves stimulated, at least in part, by his early exposure to singing the B Minor Mass at Oundle. He played the flute for years but many people here fondly remember him for his evening concerts of his record collection in his living room at Sol Backen.
Father made a slow but steady recovery for almost six weeks. During this time he would rebuke us for boring him by telling him how well he was doing. He preferred news, discussions of science, and reports of family events. On Sunday. just ten days ago, he had a particularly rewarding day. He had succeeded in climbing a few stairs and then faced, with evident fear, the dilemma of coming down again. I reminded him that, as a child, he had taken me round a submarine in the Clyde. "When going down steep steps, or a companionway in a small boat, always go down backwards." He listened to his own words, turned around, and came down safely. That night he said "Don't you say it; I will. I'm doing better. I may even get home."
Very sadly, next morning he was profoundly weaker, unable to swallow enough food or water to survive. He insisted he be spared any tubes or other medical intervention. He started to quote Arthur Clough's well known adaptation of the sixth commandment. "Thou shalt not . . . . .". I finished it for him because he had taught it to us well: "Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive officiously to keep alive." I sat in the hospital room with father and mother and acted as their interpreter and as their son. As interpreter I relayed his quiet, resolute request so that mother could hear. I listened as she reassured him - he need try no longer. After this crucial conversation, mother stood and said she would like to kiss him. As their son, I intervened and managed to remove both their glasses which, otherwise, always tangled and got in their way. I stood quietly during their warm kiss and close embrace. Then I got their glasses mixed up and there followed a wonderful moment. The emotion of our last few minutes was replaced by the three of us laughing. I had learned one more lesson from them. When two people have loved, trusted, supported, and laughed together for so many years, they do so through just one more step, the last one.
Thank you father. Thank you mother.
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Mar 6, 2010