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Methodist stalwart with great sense of fun dies, aged 101

Date: Tuesday 14th March 2017

LIFELONG Methodist Bert Nichol will be remembered today at a service of thanksgiving at Penrith Methodist Church, which last year hosted a weekend of parties when he celebrated his 100th birthday.

Born in Brougham Street, Penrith, in January, 1916, Bert grew up in the town, went to Sunday School at Wordsworth Street Methodist Church and attended the County Boys’ School.

He left school aged 14 and began work at the Maypole Dairy, King Street, for the sum of 10 shillings per week. Bert served in World War II, in campaigns in Sicily and Italy, and continued to be sustained by his religious faith.

One of his favourite memories from this period was singing in a choir put together for Christmas while stationed in Naples. While there, he also witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1944.

In 1941, he married Dorothy Place (originally from Glenridding) and their first home together was in Carleton Road. Both were very involved in the community and church activities.

Bert always took a passionate interest in the development of young people despite not having children of his own. He taught in Sunday school and became Sunday school superintendent, a role he carried out conscientiously but with great humour for many years. In 1946, he became the secretary at the Tudor Cafe and a well-known personality in the town.

Sport was another lifelong passion. As a boy, he watched Penrith AFC but once earning money, he could afford trips to support Carlisle United and watched them regularly in the North Eastern League in the 1920s. He only gave up his season ticket in 2004 when increasing infirmity led him to stop driving and give up his car.

As a young man, he played football but was most active as a badminton player, winning trophies and enjoying the social life surrounding the sport. In later life, he also played bowls and was an early advocate healthy eating, sport and exercise.

In 1965, life changed considerably for Bert and Dorothy when they moved away from Penrith to Llandrindod Wells, mid-Wales, where Bert took up a post as hydrometric assistant with the Wye River Authority. He also learned to drive and this became one of Bert and Dorothy’s greatest pleasures, exploring the beautiful scenery of Wales and taking holidays in other parts of the UK.

His nephew, Geoff Cornthwaite — also a Penrith native — was already living in Llan’dod, as the town was known locally, with his family of three daughters.

Bert and Dorothy began to enjoy a family life and became actively involved in helping to look after the girls as well as contributing to Methodist Church life in the town. It was here that Bert became a local preacher and travelled round the rural chapels taking services. The couple loved Wales and the scenery which was so reminiscent of Lakeland. For short spells, they also lived in Bala and Prestatyn, North Wales, before retiring to Penrith in 1981.

They quickly got involved in the Glasson Court and Methodist Church communities. Bert continued preaching in local chapels and Dorothy would always accompany him. He joined the Penrith branch of Probus, became chairman, and was ultimately made a lifelong honorary member. He was an active member of the Methodist Men’s Meeting (the 3Ms) and sang in its choir for many years.

He was also a founding member of the Penrith Methodist Church luncheon club for senior citizens. Bert was widowed in 1990 and continued to live alone, with the determination to be independent, until he fell and broke his hip in September last year.

He used to take regular holidays in Suffolk at his great-niece’s home and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the rough and tumble of family life. Despite severe deafness and mobility problems in later life, Bert liked to be out and about, meeting and talking to people. He had a great sense of fun and loved to joke.

In return, people loved him and recognised his genuine interest and concern for them. He was an inspiration to many and will be sadly missed.

He is survived by four great-nieces — Jennifer Walters, Christine Green, Kate Curtis and Alison Bowen and their families, including three great-great-great nieces and nephews.

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