John Graham died in November 2013 after many years of service to our church, the benefice and to the village. A much loved and greatly missed guide, mentor and friend to many of us. This letter of thanks and remembrance has been received from John’s brother.
As we are sure most readers will already know John Graham died aged 92 in November 2013 having lived in Somersham since his retirement. In addition to helping with services in the Benefice, and also singing in the choir, he spent much of his time and energy in compiling crosswords for The Guardian, the Financial Times and for the magazine “1 Across” which he founded in 1984. He also devised ‘bespoke’ crosswords for individuals who wanted to celebrate a special event or anniversary.
John was the eldest son of Eric and Phyllis Graham and was born in Oxford, while his father, who later became Bishop of Brechin, was Dean of Oriel. He was educated at St. Edward’s School, Oxford and at King’s College, Cambridge which he left in 1942 to join the RAF. He was shot down over Italy, but bailed out successfully and remained hidden with an Italian family until freed by the advancing Americans. (He was mentioned in dispatches for this episode).
After the war John returned to King’s to read theology, attended Ely Theological College and was ordained in 1948. He held posts in various parishes including Beaconsfield and St Peter’s Eaton Square. His first marriage broke down and he later married his beloved Margaret. As his first wife was still alive, this led to his having to give up the priesthood, but he was able to return to the fold when his first wife died. It was this enforced separation from his clerical duties, which spurred him on to make his hobby of crosswords into a source of income. His work as ‘Araucaria’ the Monkey Puzzle Tree) was highly successful and he became perhaps the country’s best known and loved compiler. He was made an MBE in 2005.
John and Margaret moved to Somersham on his retirement to be near Margaret’s
daughters, Jane and Judith. After Margaret died he moved to his small house in Rectory Lane where he lived until his cancer forced him into hospital and then into Brookfield Care Home; here the splendid staff cared for him until he died on 26th November 2013.
His brothers and sister (as well as many, many others) will forever be grateful to Somersham ( and to the PCC in particular) for the love and care that he was given – not only during his life but also afterwards with the wonderful support provided at his funeral and Memorial Service. The family are particularly grateful to the Bishop of Huntingdon, to Father Fred Kilner and to the Leahs, and , also especially for the Grossenhacher family who did so much for him after Margaret died.
He will be remembered nationally for his crosswords, but here people will remember his as a shy, humble man whose generosity and loving kindness made him a greatly respected member of our Benefice.