[Read at Rita’s funeral in Southwell Minster: after the first paragraph, dad was too upset to continue, so I had to take over]

Warn re possible change of presenter


I think that anything I say cannot compare with the tribute you have paid Rita by being with us today. Simon’s and Susan’s parents travelling from Southampton. Christopher, Susan’s brother coming from Woking to look after his ill father to enable his mother to attend. our first and dearest neighbour [1957 ] Freda. Sister Amanda Smith, ward manager at Kings Mill hospital. So many, so moving.

Do you believe in fate? I first met Rita aged 11 yrs, in a potato field.  Children were allowed to pick potatoes as part of the war effort. 3/6 per week, take your own bucket. Rita and her partner-in-crime, Joyce Tilston were present and decided that they would have the end-of-row stint which I wanted, they won.

Fate. Fast forward to 1947 when I was sent to school at Ollerton. About 500 yards from Rita’s home. I found the school, found the headmasters office, and waited outside. Not another soul about. The first person to pass was Rita. She stopped, looked at me and said ‘what are you doing there?’

She adopted this tone throughout our marriage whenever she admonished me.

Leaving school, I went to work at Boughton Co-Op. Rita went to work at Woolworth’s at Mansfield. Fate. Some time later, she decided to try the Co-Op and was posted to the drapery department at Boughton. I plainly remember her first day there: when the staff left at closing time Rita, went with them.

I went in a different direction. The second night she was with me and we were together ever since apart from my army service. I only joined the police in order to get a house provided to enable us to get married. We moved about the county, struggled on abysmal pay, but always together 

Rita was a wonderful wife and mother - she carried me for 58 years. She ran the house, managed our non-existent finance, brought up and educated the children of whom she was very proud. She did most of the garden and even cleared the drive of snow when I was at work.

Buying the bungalow in 1970 to save the children having to move yet again, Rita went to work at the local chemist: 8am to 6pm having 2 hrs lunch break to feed the boys, worked Saturdays and all for £8 per week. She never stopped working. It’s in the Atkin genes. They are all the same.

In retirement, just as life was rosy, ‘this’.

The only blessing is Victoria having a daughter on Rita’s birthday this year. Rita held her at three weeks old, which she loved.

Rita loved dancing, and we did a lot in the fifties, and a lot to Rod Stewart in the eighties.

Just listen for a bit before you leave, it’s totally what I feel for Rita.

Please join us for a cup of tea at the Saracen’s Head.

[Cue: “You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul, you would be my breath should I grow old, you are my lover and my best friend, you’re in my soul.”]

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