Obituary Notices

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Family historians know they can find a date of death or burial from Parish Registers or the GRO Index. By purchasing a certificate, the final address and cause of death can be discovered and since the mid-1960s, death certificates can be used to confirm a date of birth but those are scant facts when it comes to building up the picture of a lifetime.

On the following pages, Beryl Stentiford writes a very personal and loving tribute to her uncle, Felix Arthur Stentiford. One of the documents she has kept over the years is a copy of the obituary notice which appeared in the local newspaper after his funeral in 1962, The first thing that strikes a modern reader is that it is an absolutely invaluable research tool because it contains so much detail.

 

After naming Felix Stentiford* and giving his address and age, the obituary gets right on with the task of building a picture of the man's life.

Our first discoveries are that he was a man of religious beliefs and that he was musical. Not a bad  record those 65 years in the church choir.  He held office in the congregation, and took an active part in the life of Kingsteignton's school and village hall.

These activities represented hours of unpaid service to his community  - choir practices, school management meetings, Trustee meetings and participation in parochial affairs. Almost as an afterthought, we find out that he found time to do these things after a busy day spent running his own business as a market gardener.

 

Felix Stentiford is seated in the front row at the extreme left hand side

Felix Stentiford is seated in the front row at the extreme left hand side

Beryl Stentiford

 

Like most of the young men of his day, Felix Stentiford served in World War 1. His obituary notice states that he joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, afterwards being transferred to the 5th Devons, serving in France. This is at odds with the chalked caption on the photo above which clearly describes Felix and his comrades as the "Lewis Gun section of C Company of the 15th Devons".

 

Felix was a founder member of the Kingsteignton branch of the Royal British Legion and acted as its secretary for many years.

The British Legion (later to become "Royal") was formed in 1921 to give practical help and companionship to ex-service personnel and their dependents. The income of the Society comes from the sale of poppies on Remembrance Day each November and the poppies are made in the Legion's own factory by disabled service men and women. Throughout the country, towns and villages have branch clubs where members can meet for social activities and mutual support.

 

Royal British Legion Club, Kingsteignton

Royal British Legion Club, Kingsteignton

 

 

Two long columns of names follow in the obituary notice, accompanied by descriptions  of family or other relationships to the deceased. This can be very helpful to the historian, revealing as it does women's married names and the constitution of other, related family units. Felix Stentiford's status within his own community is underlined by the presence at his funeral of representatives of the Church of England diocese, St. Michael's congregation and bellringers,  British Legion, Women's Institute, Parish Council, Village School, Mother's Union and dozens upon dozens of ordinary villagers who just wanted to pay their last respects and support his widow and family in their sadness. The choir, of which he had been so loyal a member, met the coffin as it arrived at the church and formed its guard of honour.

And there's a clue too, to an event of great sadness in Felix Stentiford's life. The newspaper tells us that his body was cremated and the ashes placed on the grave of his only son, Percy Stentiford, who died on 31 Oct 1937 at the age of 22.

 

Percy Stentiford's grave Percy Stentiford's grave

Percy Stentiford's grave in the Churchyard of St. Michael's Church, Kingsteignton

Percy's father and mother are remembered on the kerbsides of the grave

 

The final lines of the obituary, with lists of who sent flowers and the accompanying messages on each wreath give us one final surprise - no one who knew him well ever called him by the names with which he had been baptised! To everyone who was close to him, he was known as "Uncle Phil" and that is who Beryl Stentiford remembers on the following pages.

 

*For more information about the family of Felix Arthur Greenslade Stentiford and the village of Kingsteignton please turn to Issue 12 in the Archive Section.

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  Last modified:
30/04/2003