The Centre Alpha Road Birchington CT7 9EG
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OBITUARY – IRIS BEDWELLWe were all very sad to learn of the death of Iris Bedwell at the age of 83. Iris was born in Abergele, north Wales on 18th September 1921. Iris was the second of five children. Her mother Florence was daughter of the local Minister and her father was Robert who came from Flint, owned his own steam traction engine and did road works.
Iris went to the local village school and because her father was English and her Mother Welsh-speaking, she grew up bilingual. Iris left school at 15 in 1936 and went to work as a nanny for a local doctor. She stayed with him until she was 16½, when she applied to start nursing training at Rhyl. She enjoyed her training, but it was very hard work. On Friday September 1st 1939, Iris and two of her friends went to Rhyl to join the ATS. She did her early training at Hereford, where she learned to drive and met Alf. Not long after, Alf returned to his unit, while she was posted to Oxford as a driver to a Brigadier.
After the war, she discovered he was a dentist who ended up retiring to Cliftonville. Iris and Alf stayed with him when their home at Brooksend was flooded in 1973. Alf and Iris were married in August, 1941, but Alf was called back to barracks and she spent her honeymoon with her mother-in-law. Barbara was born in 1943. When Alf was demobbed in 1945, they came back to Birchington, and Alf went back to his job at Quex. Alf then got a job as a gardener in Bromley, but the place did not suit Iris, and so he had to bring her back to Thanet. He got a job with the Sayers at Cleve Farm where his father worked.
At first they lived with Alf's parents in Acol, then in their own cottage before moving to Brooksend in 1955.Iris returned to nursing in the 1950s and worked at Margate Hospital until 1976. It was then that she met her long time friend, Shirley, who helped her with some of her later ventures after she had retired.
During the 1950s and 60s, Iris helped to organise the Red Cross in Margate and tried several times to get a unit started in Birchington. In retirement, Iris ran her flower shop in Station Road for over 20 years. She retired from that in 2001 and nearly drove Alf mad for a couple of weeks before taking over a tiny shop in the Square, which she called "Oma's Delight", for another couple of years.
In between all this, she was very active in the Chamber of Commerce, becoming its President in 1985 and on and off until the Chamber closed in 2004. She was elected to the Parish Council in 1988 and became Chairman in 1994-5 and 1995-6. She was heavily involved with the Twinning Association, connecting Birchington with La Chapelle d'Armentières in 1989. Fame came in 1991, on their Golden Wedding anniversary, when she and Alf tried to paint out an offensive Benetton Advert on a hoarding in Station Road. They both ended up in a cell in Margate Police Station. Iris, with the support of Alf was also a great supporter of the Carnival Association and B.R.A. Alf died in 2006 and in 2011 Iris went to live with her daughter in California, where she died.
DENNIS COOPER O.B.E. Dennis Cooper was born in Surbiton to a French father and English mother on 16th October, 1934. He was run over by a lorry at the age of six, but his leg was saved and, apart from that he had a uneventful war. After he left school, he joined the Foreign Office and then the Royal Ordnance Corps for his National Service and was then summoned to the War Office. He was chosen to learn Russian and his diplomatic career began in Jeddah in 1955. After the Suez Crisis, he was expelled and sent to Budapest where he met his wife Wendy, whom he married in 1958, and where his daughter Caroline was born. He went on to Moscow which was rather a shock with the secret police and then had various postings including Miami, which he enjoyed and where his son Michael was born. In 1972 he suffered a pulmonary embolism but made a good recovery before going to Dallas. After a home posting for a while he did a second eight year stint in Moscow, leaving in 1980 for Dallas and finally Paris. He received an O.B.E. from The Queen for his services to the country.
After 40 years, Dennis retired aged 56 to Chesapeake in Sea Road. After such a distinguished career, he was a real asset to the village. He joined the Parish Council, of which he became Chairman. In addition, he became a Governor of the Royal School for the Deaf and was often called upon as an official Russian translator in Dover. In 1996 he became a member of Birchington Neighbourhood Watch of which he also became Chairman. He was to be greatly involved in both Thanet and Birchington NW right up to his death, chairing meetings, producing the Watchword Newsletter, organising the co-ordinators and working in the Liaison Office at Margate Police Station. He is a great loss to the NW members and Birchington. The funeral at Margate Crematorium was full with family, friends and representatives of all the organisations he helped. A number of people paid tribute to him at the funeral. One said he was a fine all-round and humble man, a great rôle model whilst another spoke of his qualities of honesty, integrity, humility and summed him up as “thorough, meticulous, stubborn and diplomatic.” He is survived by his widow, Wendy, his two sons and daughter, eight grandchildren and two great-grand-children. BERNARD LA ROCHEAs this goes to press, we have just heard of the death of Bernard La Roche. A full obituary of his life will appear in the next issue.