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Ian Chalk's Thanksgiving

by Christina Jeffery – 6th September 2021
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Family and friends of the late Ian Chalk gathered in St Mary's Church on Monday 30th August at a service of thanksgiving for Ian's life. The service was led by the rector of the Witchert Vale Benefice, the Rev Cassa Messervy. David Chalk reports that he and his brothers, Andrew and Mike, were there with their families (Ian's grandchildren), also Ian's sister, Lady Helen Trafford and her son Mark, and his sister-in-law, Jacque Chalk and her daughter Annabel Blake with her daughter, Ruby.

An address about Ian's life in Haddenham and his major contributions to our community was delivered by Tony Robinson, a fellow member of the Haddenham Lodge of Freemasons:

Friends and acquaintances have willingly provided information and many anecdotes about Ian's life locally and nationally. But let me set the scene by telling you what I think is the most telling comment we have received about him. A village elder said "He was brilliant for the village, an impeccable, quiet mannered gentleman". I think most of us would be proud to have our community life summarised as such..

Ian played Club cricket to a high standard until the 1970s, when he eventually decided to hang up his pads and he took to growing dahlias. Mentored by Fred Miles, a well-known local dahlia grower, he entered many local horticultural shows and in September 1974 won the blue ribbon for his dahlias, the first of many such successes. He even ventured as far as the town of Risca, in the Welsh valleys, to the Mineworkers Championship Flower Show where, with the help of his great friend Mick Penn, their dahlias won Best in Section. Much to the annoyance of some of the local miners, who had been exhibiting for years! The stories of their adventures in Wales with Ian's wife Jean and Mick's wife Jacquie, when retold afterwards, were hilarious! Later with his partners Mick Penn and Fred Miles, they won a National Gold Medal at the Royal Horticultural Society show in London. This interest also led him to become a steward at the Bucks County Show and secretary of the Aylesbury Dahlia Society. Appropriately, the church was decorated with masses of dahlias provided by Mick Penn.

Ian did not limit himself to dahlias! His and Jean's front garden was a sight to behold every year with tulips and wallflowers in the spring, followed by geraniums or petunias in the summer. But how many of us knew that he also grew superb onions, in his garage!

Ian was also very generous with passing on his horticultural knowledge and skill to others, and in 1996 became the president of Haddenham Horticultural Society and on his retirement he was made an honorary life member.

Ian worked tirelessly in the community for decades. He may have come to Haddenham to be the managing director of Spicer-Hallfield, but he quickly showed his abilities in the management of many of the village's activities.

He was a trustee of the Haddenham Parochial Charities for more than 25 years until retiring in 2016. He handled the business of the charities in the same efficient, competent, good-humoured manner as he dealt with everything else. For instance, Ian and John Landon sorted out a troublesome and tiny charity by kindly persuading the hereditary landowner to buy out the obligation and allow the proceeds to be combined with one of the other charities. Ian acted as a mentor to younger trustees and thus was able to hand over the reins without leaving any problems when he retired due to ill health.

Ian was a Haddenham parish councillor for nine years from 1965, before becoming the chairman in 1972, and only standing down in 1974 because of his increasing business commitments. As chairman he "motivated" the other councillors by publishing, for the first time ever at the Annual General Meeting, the records of their attendance! and at one such meeting a member of the public, most unusually, thanked the parish council for making the village "such a pleasant place to live in".

In his first year as chairman of the parish council, he also reminded counsellors that reopening the railway station (which actually occurred 15 years later) would result in extra traffic, and that a clear parking plan would be needed. He was indeed a very perceptive forward thinker; a man before his time!

In the early 1970s he was elected as an independent councillor for five years, on what became the Aylesbury Vale District Council – he was very proud of defeating the main political parties' nominees!

He also served on the Playing Fields Committee and in 1973 attended the cutting of the first turf for the new pavilion on the playing fields.

In the early 1990s he helped to raise over £130,000 for much needed repairs to this beautiful church.

He was a governor of St. Mary's School and the first chair of governors of the now Haddenham Community Junior School.

He was a founder member of Haddenham Village Society, president of Haddenham Football Club, and president of the Probus Club of Thame, which has many members from Haddenham.

He also proudly collected for the Poppy Appeal, up and down Townside for 35 years.

In the 1990s, and with more time on his hands after retiring, he ventured into bloodstock. He owned race horses which were trained both in England and in France – but he had cannily worked out that not only did the French government provide a useful tax break but that a long weekend in Deauville was a more appealing than one Wolverhampton!

Throughout his life his passion for all sports as a spectator remained undiminished.

Another major part of his life, for more than 60 years, was Freemasonry. He joined his father's Granta Lodge in Cambridgeshire in 1956 and, in 1981, Ian was a founding member of Haddenham Masonic Lodge. He remained a pillar of this Lodge right up until a few years ago when Parkinson's disease sadly took its toll and prevented him from attending meetings.

He was a founder or joiner of a number of other Masonic units in the area and progressed to a very senior rank in Freemasonry in Buckinghamshire and nationally. Both Haddenham and Granta Lodge granted him honorary membership, in recognition of all he had done.

Throughout his life Ian gave so much yet took so little, which was highlighted in his focus on charitable causes. He was founding secretary of the Bucks Masonic Centenary Fund and made the original masonic contact with the Pace organisation in Aylesbury – a specialist charity that is committed to ensuring that children with neuro-disabilities have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential in life. He set up the foundations and the strong bond lasts to this day. He worked tirelessly for the good of others. At national level, he made a great contribution to the Masonic Grand Charity, becoming its deputy president.

It could easily have been Ian, that Rudyard Kipling wrote about in some of the lines in his poem If' .... Ian demonstrated how to "fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of effort run" and he did indeed "walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch".

However senior Ian became in his many organisations, he was the first to volunteer support, help or mentoring to the junior members. Rather than sit on the top table, he preferred to sit with and talk to the rank and file present.

David Chalk wrote for the funeral that "Ian Chalk, a lifelong lover of cricket, having built a truly inspiring innings,. faced the inevitable unplayable delivery from Parkinson's and sadly left the field of play".

Forgive me, if I borrow the words of Grantland Rice who wrote: "for when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes, not that you won or lost, but how you played the game."

Well, Ian played the 'game' of life impeccably. He rose to eminence with a humility that kept him grounded and admired by so many. The first to congratulate ..and the last to criticise, Ian was the personification of a good man who truly 'lived respected and died regretted'.

A retiring collection amounted to £456.10, which was shared equally between the Friends of St Mary's and Parkinson's UK. Those attending the service were able to continue exchanging memories and anecdotes over tea and cake at Bradmoor Farm

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