|27 Nov 2020|
The following obituary was kindly put together by several of Chris's former colleagues and friends who remember him fondly: David Hill, Chris Knox, Michael Walsh, John Elphinestone, John Hawkins and Chris's partner of 40 years, Anne Fisher.
Christopher Parker 7th October 1938 - 13th September 2020
Chris Parker taught at Walhampton School for over ten years. He was much liked and respected by the children, the parents and his colleagues.
He was an efficient and successful teacher with a gift for firm but good humoured control. His wit was acute, perceptive and sometimes devastating, and his talent to entertain made him the first choice as compere and director of Home Entertainment which took place at the end of the Autumn Term for many years.
Chris and his wife Brenda, and their young daughters Annabel and Jenny, came to Walhampton in the early 1970s. Initially Chris taught a range of subjects at junior Prep School level, but it was not long before he became Head of Science.
In 1972 Chris and Brenda were appointed as House Parents of Walhampton’s first intake of boarding girls who resided with them in the White House, situated a short distance from the School along the road to Beaulieu.
Walhampton’s contingent of girl boarders increased, and they were soon moved to more spacious accommodation in the Clockhouse. As Chris became increasingly involved in the academic and sporting side of the School, he and Brenda eventually withdrew from their role as House Parents of the boarding girls. This allowed Chris to concentrate on his academic, pastoral and sporting commitments in the School.
Chris achieved an effective balance between his dedication to his academic teaching and his passion for coaching games to high standards. He prepared his pupils for Common Entrance and scholarship examinations in science efficiently and consistently successfully, whilst at the same time coaching School teams in cricket, rugger and soccer. As regards rugger, which was probably his favourite game, he achieved particular success coaching the Colts with John Elphinstone, and the 1st XV with Chris Knox.
Chris Parker was regarded not only as a dedicated and effective teacher who strove for the best interests of his pupils, but also as a much valued colleague who possessed high principles, a gift for warm friendship, and a dry and penetrating wit. He was a natural entertainer, and his ability to find humour in almost anything, at any time, even on the dreariest of rainy days, invariably provided welcome boosts to his colleagues’ spirits.
Personal memories of Chris, expressed by former colleagues, include:
“Chris was a natural schoolmaster with a real gift of being on the same wave length of the pupils whilst retaining their respect and admiration.
He often enlivened dreary weekly staff meetings with a highly amusing comment. When John Bradfield, the Headmaster, once asked, at a meeting, where the Expeditions leaders were going to take their contingents for Expeditions Week, when it came to Chris’s turn to answer, the dry response was,
‘I think that I will take mine to Iceland.’
This brought the house down.”
“My most enduring memory of Chris is of his dry sense of humour and his twinkling smile. He also spoke up for the family man”(…...in the face of Walhampton’s inexorable ability to swallow up almost all, if not all, of the waking hours of those who worked there.) “I shall remember Chris as a friend and colleague.”
In July 1982 Chris left Walhampton to join the staff at Rose Hill, a Preparatory School in Gloucestershire. A year or two later, he joined the staff of Caterham School in Surrey.
Anne, Chris’s partner of forty years, who had also worked at Walhampton as the Headmaster’s Secretary, was his support and inspiration throughout, though Chris maintained his quirky, humorous and unique observation of life until the very end.
In loving memory of Chris and with eternal gratitude to him, Anne has written:
“Chris’s last decade of teaching was at The Hawthorns, where he began in 1945 as a seven year old pupil, and later returned as a student teacher. One of his proteges, Tim Johns, who later became Headmaster of The Hawthorns, found Chris’s wit and warmth so memorable that he headhunted him to return to his Hawthorn roots as Head of Science and Pastoral Care, and to renew his close links with the Bull family, the school’s founders.
Chris retired in 2000, mostly to Birchington, where in the church community further links were renewed, this time with John and Margaret Hawkins who were in charge in his time at Caterham, and who, in conducting and officiating at his funeral, were able to pay full and generous tribute to his wonderful all-round life skills, his gentle humility and, above all, his ever-present awareness of those in greatest need.
Chris would be surprised to be thus described, but his concern was always for the underdog, the have-nots, the people who found life difficult. He himself felt that he did not “match up”, but this absence of self-esteam was his very strength in a life of service to his profession and to his faith.”
“ In Gratitude:
How can I thank you? Both will know
The searing grief: that raging glow
Of pain that wracks and sharpens thought
To levels previously unsought.
Today I’m other.
How to be?
I’m torn apart and tossed in storm:
Definitively now unborn –
To start again to honour Chris
In what I do.
Your practicality, and deed,
Your loving skills assuage my need.
Your Trinity-inspired belief
In action shall transform my grief.
With my love,
9th/10th October 2020
And John Hawkins wrote:
“Generosity and gentleness these are the things
Which remind me of Chris, a very special friend
A humorous man right up to the end and
A gifted communicator when children he tends
Hawthorns, Lymington and Caterham
Schools which benefited from his talents
We’re grateful for all of the love that he offered
To all of the children and colleagues he proffered
Sports coach, housemaster, science teacher too
In all of these roles he gave of his best
A dedicated staff member always on cue
Reliable, trustworthy and a sharp point of view
Dear Chris Parker, your thoughts are always for others
You’ve borne your illness with tremendous courage
I have missed you these months just like a brother
Your smile is remembered by all at St Thomas
How lovely to renew friendships with you and with Anne
And remember times past which was often a blast
Those pointed comments so kindly meant
I’m sorry we can’t hug as we did in the past
Our prayers for you Chris come from all of your friends
The whole of St Thomas their thoughts do extend
Its been our good fortune to have you with us,
We all love you Chris, not for you all that fuss
Chris will be very sadly missed, but most fondly remembered.
Former Walhampton staff gather their thoughts to pay tribute to their warm and witty friend, Chris Parker. More...