It is with much sadness that we talk to you all in this special Newsletter. Many of you will have already heard the tragic news of the passing of our trustee and fundraiser Chris Proudfoot. After a battle with mental illness Chris took his own life on Tuesday the 24th May. His family are devastated by the loss and I would include his "82045" family who are still reeling from the news. I think I can speak for all of us who will find Chris irreplaceable. Below are some tributes from those who knew him best and longest. Firstly from Tony Massau:
It must be over forty years ago when I first got to know Chris when he started volunteering at Bridgnorth MPD and as he lived not too far from myself we shared transport to Bridgnorth on a number of occasions. We were enlisted by Colin Williams to help with the restoration of 42968 and went on to serve on the committee of The Stanier Mogul Fund for a period. Once Chris had passed out as a fireman we worked together on the footplate on mid-week turns for a number of years.
Chris had trained as a teacher and specialised in languages. He had a talent for writing and this came to the fore when we took on the 82045 new build project after the originator of the idea in South Devon felt he could not continue with the scheme. Chris has written various imaginative articles about 82045 for the railway press and been responsible for appeal leaflets all of which has paid off handsomely in the support that 82045 has received resulting in such good progress being made with the construction of the locomotive.
He was the friendly face at our outdoor work site at Bridgnorth during SVR galas, ever ready to talk to the visitors and explain what we were doing. Although he had fairly recently decided to retire from firing he was nonetheless looking forward to an opportunity to pick up a shovel and put a round on 82045’s fire. Sadly this pleasure has now gone.
Please when you look at 82045 think of Chris.
Secondly a tribute from Rod Derry who again knew Chris for three decades:
I first met Chris in the mid-1990s when I acted as a footplate rider on the loco he was firing. Our guests were a Swiss couple, to whom Chris chatted in fluent German. That showed two of his many talents - an ability to make people feel at ease, and as a linguist, fluent in several languages.
Our paths crossed only occasionally until 2008, when Chris asked me would I act as driver for the SMF footplate experiences, on which he was the fireman. We worked together for several happy years on this duty, and again it was noticeable how he had such a relaxed manner with the (anxious) participants.
My wife and I quickly formed a close, enduring friendship with Chris and Jill, and spent many happy times with them. Chris had a deep interest in flora and fauna, and was passionate about dogs, often going to chat with complete strangers about their canines. He had a laddish sense of humour which sometimes went near the bone, but he got away with it - "The way he told `em"! At the other end of the spectrum he had a deep love of literature and poetry, and composed several serious poems.
Sadly, Chris suffered from bouts of deep depression, which he kept well hidden. Losses of family members and close friends in recent years fuelled the demons which tormented him, and tragically, that torment drove him to the path he eventually chose.
Wherever you are now, Chris, I hope you are at peace. You will be sadly missed by all who knew you, especially Jill, your daughter Rhiannon, and your niece Sarah.
For my part I found Chris to be an engaging individual and such an open book. I can see why people found his approach a bit forward, but he was so equally vulnerable in his manner. His intellect was unquestioned and his command of English language was something to admire. He used this powerfully in his sense of humour. At times when Chris noticed that I was feeling a bit low he would send me a couple of extracts from the adult comic “Viz”. He would, of-course add some choice phrases of his own to the narrative. I can still picture us chuckling to ourselves.
In my introduction I said that Chris was irreplaceable and this I believe to be true. For the 82045 group he was part of the glue that binds folk together and for our financial health he was an inspirational fundraiser. Sadly we will now have to make our way without him. We have already had some preliminary discussions and we have a trustees meeting in June to plan our way forward.
I am also working on a project by which we can contribute to the memory of Chris. Yes, that may well involve financial contributions, but it will definitely be in a good cause. There will be an update in the next Newsletter. One thing for sure is that we will all have to step up to take our responsibility in fund-raising.
For those of you who would like to join us in paying our respects, the Funeral is on the 15th June at the Vale Royal Crematorium (off A556), Shurlach Lane, Davenham, Northwich CW9 8RP at 1pm on 15th June. After the service there will be a reception for friends and relatives at Morris Dancer Hotel, Kelsall, Nr Tarporley CW6 0RZ.