Len McNab – Obituary

The following Address was given by The Revd. Penny Graysmith at the funeral of Len McNab on 20/12/2016



May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The 23rd Psalm has brought strength and comfort to people for thousands of years as they have reflected on its promise that God goes with us through everything – even death. That is something to cling onto in hope in the face of the sadness of grief.

But the words also have a particular resonance when it comes to thinking about Len:
‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death you are with me.’

Because that’s exactly where Len has been for significant part of his career – there for people who are in danger, who need to be rescued, who, without it, may be facing death. He was the first full time deputy team leader in the RAF’s Mountain Rescue and was team leader for mountain rescue in St Athan.

But it wasn’t just rescues in mountains. He also worked in desert rescue in the Persian Gulf and in jungle parachute rescue in Singapore.

Perhaps that accounts for what his oldest friend Stuart describes as ‘The incredible bold attitude he had to life.’

Margaret describes him as ‘an all-terrain person’ – someone who didn’t panic but just accepted what he had to do and did it. Nothing phased him.

How much we need people like that.

He has been a great organiser and never late for anything.

I’m told it made him a good leader.

Always there and always reliable at work as well as at home, where he could be found in charge of the remote control.

He was also reliable in what he didn’t like – gardening and decorating!

But spending lots of time with his grandchildren who have adored ‘Grandad Leg’

He had no airs and graces but said it how it was with character and humour. He could be very witty.

Len was born in Salford into a large family on both sides and moved to Denton when he was one. His earliest memory was going through Manchester during the Blitz to visit his aunts and seeing all the shop windows blown out and glass everywhere.

In the strange way things work out, Len has been in contact with the boy who grew up next door to him by the coincidence of them finding each other in the same places a number of times. Since Stuart moved away from Salford at the age of 13 they have spent less than 24 hours together, but their childhood created a strong bond. By chance they found themselves working together at RAF Tern Hill in 1964 and then Len heard Stuart’s voice reading the weather forecast on Radio Stoke and they were in touch again. Together they found other friends from schooldays by having a photo of a VE day party published in the local paper.

These rekindled friendships have been important to Len who also remembers the VJ party in Denton. These are Len’s own words.

All my time at school my best friend was a lad called Rex Jameson who lived across the street from us and did we have a good time. We got into all sorts of trouble and I remember one time just after the war. We were having a street party to celebrate VJ day and the street had lines of tables with food on and there were fireworks and a bonfire in the middle of the street. But because of the war there was no fruit.

Now Rex and I knew where there was a pear tree with lots of pears on, so we went in and pinched the lot. These were those lovely soft pears that were dear to buy. Anyway we put one of every kid’s place and sat down. Just then the local policeman DC Roberts came into the street looking for two kids seen pinching these pears. He looked straight at Rex and me and saw all the pears in front of the other kids. He said the thieves were not from round here, gave us a big wink and left.’

One of the features of Len’s life has been travelling – with work all over the world – and, for a time, as a long distance lorry driver – but also with the family. Margaret, of course, travelled with him all over the place too- taking their tiny baby daughter Jackie to Singapore to join him – something he admired greatly saying ‘what a woman!’ They had a great time there and made many friends.

The family, who were joined by Julie in February 1962, have loved caravanning as well- especially recalling the riverbank at Christchurch. Then in 1997 Margaret and Len discovered Lake Garda and have enjoyed spending time in Italy lots of times – again making good friends.

They met originally at the local pub when Len had a pass to go dancing – and that was the start of a long relationship as well as a good dancing partnership -they have been great jivers.

They’ve been married for 58 years and have lived through bringing up their daughters, enjoying their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Earlier this year, they had to endure the sadness of Jackie’s death, something dreadful for a parent to face, at a time when Len was battling illness himself.

In the face of all this sadness, it can be hard to hold on to the good memories that remind us of the unique characteristics and passions of someone-

Each of us will have our own memories of Len-

Whether it is of him in mountain rescue, or fishing,

Listening to his music, especially musicals and a good Welsh choir, thinking about meals shared, whether it was a Chinese or Julie’s bacon butties or Margaret’s meals – he has liked his food

His sense of humour, his striking looks, his love of animals, especially the dogs Suzy then Betsy, following his love for the Alsatians his Aunt Madge bred when she lived with his family and that he looked after as a boy. It was Len’s job to feed them. At one stage there were 13 of them!

All these things that have made Len Len – that we celebrate today as we remember someone who has given a lot to many others in a life well lived.

May he rest in peace. Amen. The Revd. Penny Graysmith 20.12.2016

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