Monday, 9 December 2013

In memoriam: Thomas James Fitz-Henry 1933-2013

My lovely Dad, Tom Fitz-Henry, the man who inspired me to start researching our family tree properly, died peacefully at home yesterday morning 8th December.

Tom was the eldest child of Henry and Dora Fitz-Henry, born shortly after they had moved out of the East End slums into the shiny new housing estate that was Dagenham. Tom's younger sister Pat was born 3 years later. Luckily Pat met a girl called Maureen Quinlan at school and they became best friends - lucky because Tom fell in love with her and they married after he returned from his stint in the Army on National Service.

Tom and Maureen had 3 children: me, Tim (1966-2006) and Ruth. We had a brilliantly happy childhood encouraged by energetic, intelligent and sometimes plain bonkers parents. Dad would think nothing of packing us all in our little camper van to drive 30 miles to have fish and chips on the seafront at Whitstable just because he fancied it. We were involved in Labour party politics from an early age, and our parents views on social justice shaped our lives.

Both Tom and Maureen went to college in their forties. Maureen gained an BSc Hons and became at political secretary working at the House of Commons for a succession of Labour MPs, a job she loved. Tom switched from a successful career as a consulting heating and ventilating engineer (one of his projects was the refurbishment of the Ritz Hotel in London in the 1970s) to retraining as an osteopath. He qualified with the top prize on Rheumatology for his year. He set up in Barking and treated literally thousands of patients over his 26 years in practice, many of who became good friends. He only retired on his 79th birthday when the physical work just got too much for him.

In 2002 his world came crashing down around his ears when Maureen died at the young age of 66. Four years later, his son Tim also died suddenly. After these two tragedies the light and laughter went out of his life. In his last year he became frail, but a group of fantastic personal assistants (a big thank you especially to Dawn and Sue) looked after him wonderfully, enabling him to stay independent in his own home.

He would always ask whether I had found any other Fitz-Henrys that we were related to, and followed the results of the new participants in the DNA study with interest.

Ruth and I will miss him terribly. We will remember his spur of the moment plans and his big laugh. We will remember that Tom and Mo pushed us to achieve more than we could ever think possible.

Tom's funeral will be held at the South Essex Crematorium, Corbets Tey, Upminster at 2pm on Wednesday 18th December. It will be a celebration of his life.

If you knew Tom and wish to tell how me he touched your life then please leave a comment below or you can send me an email