The 81-year-old had been coming to our gardens in King’s Heath Park since 2017. John had Parkinson’s Disease and took part in weekly therapeutic horticulture sessions. Along with his wife Sue, John was also a passionate supporter and fundraiser for Thrive.
Those who worked with John affectionately remember a man who loved gardening, telling stories and above all, people.
Jacky Hotchin remembers him as a 'fiercely independent' client gardener.
‘John had his own ways of doing things, in gardening as in life, and a magnificent eye-rolling expression at any suggestion that he might like to try some new-fangled approach,’ said Jacky, a Thrive Social and Therapeutic Horticulture Practitioner.
‘Every week, I'd set out a dibber for him. It became a joke. He'd look at it, look at me, and deliberately examine his forefingers. Nature's dibbers, and why would he use anything else?Jacky Hotchin, Thrive STH Practitioner
‘He worked hard and fast during his sessions and often finished the tasks that I naively hoped might last till the afternoon before tea. He wanted to get on with things, to do as much as he could, and to make a valid contribution - and that was what he did.
‘John gave his all to whatever we did, but particularly loved to set to with shears and loppers and hack an unruly hedge or overgrowth of ivy into shape. Brushing off, of course, any notion that he should slow down, or stop for a rest, or any such nonsense.
‘He was quite the salesman too, and in the warmer weather would set up stall by the gates and charm passers-by into purchases they never knew, when they set off to walk the dog that afternoon, how much they needed.
‘I loved working with John and seeing the genuine affection and admiration the staff, volunteers and clients all had for him.’
He also had a lovely dry sense of humour, and staff, clients and volunteers had many entertaining and lively Monday afternoon sessions listening to his retelling of funny personal stories.Sharon Waldron, STH Practitioner
Fellow practitioner Sharon Waldron recalls a man with ‘great plant knowledge and extensive gardening experience’.
‘He also had a lovely dry sense of humour, and staff, clients and volunteers had many entertaining and lively Monday afternoon sessions listening to his retelling of funny personal stories, and especially of his time in the Army,’ said Sharon.
John’s appearance was something Garden and Client Manager Alex Bailey enjoyed on Monday afternoons. Stories of his life and travels whilst potting up cuttings at speed were not the only part of his entertaining repertoire.
Alex said: ‘He would also sometimes break into a song (with tailored lyrics!) which would brighten our days in the glasshouse.
‘During one winter session, he created a beautiful foliage arrangement for Sue for Christmas. I remember the care and attention he put into this to give to his loving wife.’
John’s sense of humour and stoic approach to life made a real impression upon Sarah Bowers, Thrive Birmingham’s Centre Manager: ‘John was a real gentleman, thought of others always and was a real pleasure to be around. Our gardens were lucky to have him look after them.’