It was particularly sad to have received the news of the very untimely loss of Bill Chapman on the 4th July – just a few days before several of his former Drama Club friends would be meeting to see the performance of one of our funded projects back in Walthamstow where they, and Bill, spent such good times together as teenagers.
Bill had been a regular, committed and very well-liked member of the Markhouse Drama Club who will be sadly missed by the many friends he made over the years of his membership. This will be particularly so for those who also shared their Markhouse School years with him as well as the close friendship group that gave much time and energy to widening and enlivening the Drama Club’s activities. This was particularly in terms of both of music and light shows as well as other new and useful resources; such as converting the store cupboard next to the upstairs staff room into a Sound Studio – in true ‘MDC fashion’ – improvising this via collecting and gluing hundreds of egg boxes to the walls!
After leaving Markhouse, Bill continued in the Drama Club, whilst entering the world of work as an apprentice at the Gates of Woodford Motor Company. He stayed at Gates for the whole of his working life and progressed from his first post as a junior in the workshop into running the companies substantial 24/7 after hours breakdown, recovery and accident service. The latter entailed an often demanding and gruelling workload but, as his wife Helen has told us, he very much continued to enjoy his ‘family time’ and the opportunities to be together outside work – like their precious holidays with their two daughters Sarah and Emma- especially when they ‘discovered’ Florida – regularly!
Bill continued his ‘Gates connection’ much due to the Companies Chairman who never wanted him to retire and so set him off on a new and different ‘working life’ at his own home; where he discovered the joys of cutting grass and tending to the surrounding grounds and forest – apparently accompanied by two gun dogs. This was, in fact, an experience which several of his MDC friends will no doubt recall from their re-union ‘catch up’ – becoming clearly aware of how much he enjoyed relating his new outdoor ‘hobby’ to them. This was duly described, of course, with his usual ‘humorous slant’
Bill’s easy and cheerful manner and his great sense of humour will have been obvious to all his MDC friends and it was not surprising to learn that when he first became a Grandparent to ‘Alfie’ in 2000, he exclaimed that ‘l am only used to girls’. However, Helen has put the record straight and confirms that he soon ‘adapted’ and got much joy introducing Alfie, and later his sister Jasmine, to the world of cars!
Inevitably we are not alone in this view of Bill as a great deal of the same thoughts were expressed among the large number of family, friends and former work colleagues also paying their respects at his funera. Among these was Bill’s niece Victoria, the daughter of his sister and former MDC member Brenda, who described him as ‘really being the backbone of the family’ and that ‘whilst he was always mischievous and cheeky, he was also the one person who we all knew we could always turn to in a crisis and he would be calm and the voice of reason.
He was utterly hilarious and would have us all in stitches, but he was also the most reliable and kind person – nothing was too much trouble and he would drop everything to be there if needed’. ‘He felt like the one person who would always be there, so it is really difficult to get our heads around the fact that he has gone’.
These are such warm thoughts of our ‘teenage years’ friend, but perhaps the final comment in this tribute has to be with Helen, his wife of some 52 years, who said that ‘he never forgot his roots and had many happy memories from his early days, recounting tales about the Drama Club and his many friends past and present’
‘Thank you to all of you who were part of Bill’s life he never forgot you’
Bill Chapman. 1951 – 2023