Remembering John Daniels 24th July 1928 – 4th April 2020
A group photo from a DRWF Diabetes Wellness Day - with DRWF Events Co-ordinator Lee Calladine, front centre, with John Daniels to his left
John was born on 24th July 1928 in Godalming, Surrey and at only a few months old he was adopted by George and Marjorie Daniels. When he was eight-years-old John was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent more than two years in hospital. Unfortunately, as is often the case, in that time he caught many other illnesses including mumps, measles, chicken pox and scarlet fever. This resulted in a transfer to an isolation hospital and surgery, before being sent to convalesce on the Isle of Wight, a place he often visited throughout his life.
John then moved to live with his grandparents in Atherstone, Warwickshire. Here he attended a Catholic school and became involved with the church, serving as an altar-boy. He also joined the scouts, rising through the ranks to become a Rover Scout, a position he held throughout life. He met scouts from many other countries and was lucky enough to meet the founder Baden Powell himself. He was particularly honoured to be picked as the British Scout Movement representative at a World Scout event in Switzerland. Scouting gave John travel experience and a strong set of positive values that served him through his life. He remained close to the church throughout, even spending time with monks of the Dominican Order and once considered whether this was his calling.
Another passion was amateur dramatics, especially delivering comedy monologues, something he did to the great amusement of everyone at the Diabetes Wellness Weekends. Through theatre, he met and became firm friends with William Sulley White, then using the stage name Billy Breen - and who later found fame as Larry Grayson. The two remained in contact throughout their lives.
John during his time in the RAF
John was too young to serve in the war, so joined the Air Training Corps instead and later the Royal Air Force. He served as fire officer and managed the base gym where he developed a passion for wrestling. This became a lifelong interest, first as a competitor and later as a spectator. John was also posted to North Wales, where he joined the mountain rescue team and then to Blackpool where he became the camp cinema projectionist.
John with his wife Shirley
John left the service in 1948 and shortly afterwards met his beloved wife Shirley when they both performed at a pageant to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. They started courting, fell in love and were married the following year. They remained devoted to each other for nearly 50 years until Shirley’s death in 2003.
Among his job roles and many hobbies, John had a love of sailing and family members would often have to crew for him whether they wanted to or not. John also changed career at age 50 to become a chiropodist, a job he did until he retired.
After losing Shirley, John immersed himself in community and charity work, becoming an active member of several groups, clubs and charities as well volunteering at the local hospice.
John was an avid supporter of DRWF and always said he was proud to be part of our family. The feeling was mutual.
He also pursued his love of singing and was an active choir member in his church and the Chorley Choral Society. He was a reader in church and even completed a course to allow ‘lay people’ to give Holy Communion in the community. He was particularly proud of this as he had the blessing of the Bishop. He fulfilled all these roles with vigour.
John loved music, TV, and films, particularly his favourite Andre Rieu, who he would play at full volume. He was a lifelong lover of books too, both for knowledge and pleasure. John could always be found reading in the lounge at the Diabetes Wellness Weekends in between the busy schedule of talks and workshops.
It goes without saying that we will always be grateful to John for his support, his company, and his friendship over the years. He will be greatly missed. If, and when, we resurrect the Diabetes Wellness Weekends, I have a feeling we might need to learn some of his monologues to keep his tradition going.
Finally, I will leave you with a few of John’s own words, as written in a last letter to his family. I think you will agree, these words have significant meaning in these unprecedented times of uncertainty. They certainly sum up the man he was and the man we were lucky enough know.
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