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.
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.
Stentiford is seated in the front row at the extreme left hand side
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
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.
Stentiford's grave in the Churchyard of St. Michael's Church,
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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