Service of Thanksgiving Eulogy for Eileen May Filer
Given by the Rev'd Brian Williams RN at Portchester Crematorium on 3 February 2009


Eileen was 90 years old when she passed away.  She was born in 1918 in London and lived in the Stoke Newington area.  She certainly had a wide experience of life from a very early age.  Her father served in the First World War and had the unfortunate experience of being gassed.  He could not live in England after this because of the climate so, when Eileen was about two, the family moved out to Australia and lived in the middle of nowhere at Alice Springs.  After about two years, health problems forced Eileen's mum back to England with Eileen and her sister, leaving dad in Alice Springs.  A strange irony; Dad could only live in the Australian climate and Mum could only live in England.  It must have been a very stressful time for them all.

On returning to England, the family lived once more in Stoke Newington where Eileen went to school.  After this, Eileen entered the world of employment and she was apprenticed to her older sister, Ivy, in D.H. Evans.  This was a large department store in Oxford Street.  It was during this time that Eileen gained her certificate in corsetry, very important in those days.

When Eileen was in her early 20s, along came the Second World War.  Ivy was married to a sailor and was living in Gosport.  It was at a ship's company dance in HMS Vernon, when Eileen was staying with Ivy, that a young sailor swept her off her feet.  They won the spot waltz.  Bill, for it was he, arranged to meet Eileen again in Stoke Newington.  When Eileen moved down to Gosport, she transferred to Knight & Lee in Southsea

In 1940, Bill and Eileen were married at St Michael's and All Angels, Stoke Newington.  Bill was a Petty Officer serving at HMS Daedelus and Eileen was listed as the daughter of a sheep shearer.  The Australian connection was still there.

Because of his war service in Bomb & Mine Disposal, Bill was away for much of the time.  Bill is one of those quiet heroes who did so much to secure our future during the war.  He won the George Medal and, in 1953, he was appointed an MBE.  Eileen was living with Ivy whose husband was by then a POW after taking part in the raid on St Nazaire.  Bill was in HMS Medway when she was sunk and came home as a survivor.  Quite a family of heroes.

After the war, Bill and Eileen set up home in Virginia Park Road in Gosport.  Bill carried on in the Navy and served for 34 years.  He went into the wardroom and at one time had Command of his own ship, HMS Diver, during which they spent three years in Edinburgh.  After leaving the Navy, Bill set up an experimental diving unit at the Institute of Naval Medicine and was still in uniform.

Eileen was still working at Knight & Lee and did war service at RNAD Priddy's Hard.  In 1945, when she was expecting Judy, Eileen was quietly retired from the department store as it was 'not the done thing' to work in a shop when expecting.  Judy was born at Lyndhurst while Eileen was evacuated and, after the war, Richard came along while the family was living in a flat in Southsea.

The family had become more settled in the 1950s when Bill was drafted back to HMS Vernon.  They enjoyed taking caravan holidays together and boats on the Thames.  69 years of married life they shared; what a wonderful record.  Bill, though, always knew who was the boss.

They ended up living in Lee-on-the-Solent where Eileen became a well-known figure.  She worked in the Oxfam shop for 46 years, right up to 2008.  Eileen and Bill worked hard for the community.  They were involved from the start in building the Lee scout hut in the early 60s and they supported the scouting movement and received the 'Thanks Badge' from the Scouts for their work.

We have heard much about the family's life as a whole but I got the impression from talking to Judy and Bill that, behind it all, was Eileen the driving force, guiding the family along through everything that life could put in their way; the glue that held family life together.  People who have lived their lives as Eileen did, suffering the hard times that two world wars produced, tend to develop strong characters and bags of self-confidence.  As Bill said, "Eileen was the boss."  Like many people who have been through a lot, Eileen just got on with things.  Robustly healthy all her life, working hard and playing hard takes its toll.  In September 2008, Eileen went into QA with jaundice and subsequent tests showed pancreatic cancer as well.  She had her 90th birthday party in October at Richard's, an event that she thoroughly enjoyed, but in November she had a fall.  Bill called the ambulance and it was back to QA where it was discovered that she had a broken ankle.  After a time in Phillip ward she went into Glen Heather's via Gosport War Memorial Hospital.  She felt at home at Glen Heather's; the care was very good and she spent Christmas with Bill at Richard's house in Stubbington.  In a fairly short period of time after Christmas, the jaundice returned and the cancer spread.  Eileen passed away on the 24th of January.  She has two grand-daughters and three great grand-daughters, the newest born on the 26th of January mush to the joy of the family.

So here we have a special lady.  The quiet, driving force behind the family.  Someone who liked being with people, either at work in a shop or at home with her family.  She knew the value of life and how to live it; she knew the value of love shown in 69 years of marriage and family life; she knew the value of ;loyalty shown in her community service and work for Oxfam.  I am sure that Eileen will be missed by all who knew her, family and friends alike.

So, what comfort is there for Eileen, and what comfort is there for all of us who are left behind to wonder what happens next?

Well, we are promised something more than just our life on this earth.  We have the promise of eternal life.  It is not something that I can show you.  All I can do is ask you to have faith that it is there for all of us to share, because it was promised to us by the Son of God himself.

So there we have it.  We have the promise of eternal life in whatever form that will take.  A life free from pain, free from suffering and free from troubles.  Eileen is experiencing this now and we wish her peace and fulfilment in that life, and look forward to sharing it with her when our time comes.........Amen.