Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

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Mark R
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Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Mark R »

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The funeral will be held on Friday 4th December, commencing 12.15pm at Reading Crematorium.

All are welcome, to pay their respects and remember our friend. The crematorium is large but if required, there is also a covered area outside with a PA system.

Reading Crematorium
All Hallows Road
Caversham
Reading
RG4 5LP

Please circulate this information to all who knew Chris.

With thanks,
Mark Rainsley
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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Mark R »

Instead of sending flowers, donations are invited to two charities that reflect Chris’ paddling across the UK on both rivers and sea; Mountain Rescue England and Wales and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

A proportion of the donations will be directed towards the Dartmoor Rescue Group, part of Mountain Rescue England and Wales. Volunteers from this group worked through the night of 21st/22nd November to carry Chris out of the upper Dart valley.

To make donations, please send cheques to the Funeral Director A B Walker http://www.abwalker.co.uk

With thanks,

Julia Hopkinson

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

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To clarify; cheques need to be payable to the RNLI or to Mountain Rescue England & Wales.
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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Mark R »

A few folk have asked;

Boats on car roofs attending the funeral is fine.
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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

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Many thanks to all who braved the cold and turned up today. The crematorium staff believed that there were about 400 people present.
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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Simon »

Mark,

As one of those who attended can I just say thanks also to you and to those who arranged the funeral - it can't have been easy. But I thought that the two eulogies, given by yourself and Chris's brother, were excellent. From overheard conversations I know that some of the family there were helped and supported by the turnout of paddlers (which showed how much we loved Chris) and the eulogies ( which helped them understand how, and how much, Chris loved paddling).

The St Crispin's day speech was particularly inspired. Is it worth posting your eulogy on this thread for the benefit of those who could not get to the funeral, and perhaps see if Tim Wheeler wants to post his eulogy too.

With best wishes

Simon Dawson

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Adrian Cooper »

Simon wrote:The St Crispin's day speech was particularly inspired.
It was the one part which brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat. A very appropriate choice Mark, thanks.

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Chas C »

Simon wrote:Mark, As one of those who attended can I just say thanks also to you and to those who arranged the funeral - it can't have been easy. But I thought that the two eulogies, given by yourself and Chris's brother, were excellent.
I too agree with Simon's sentiments.

Can I also say that the slide show presentation put together by Mark and introduced by Andy Mc on Saturday evening was very poignant, its the first time I've ever heard everyone in the RDCP fall quiet - respect to them all.

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Paul Smith »

Chas C wrote: its the first time I've ever heard everyone in the RDCP fall quiet - respect to them all.
For those that weren't there - You could hear a pin drop.
Supported by : Team Pyranha | PeakUK

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Mark R »

My eulogy, made on behalf of Chris' paddling friends;

--------------------------------
I have the honour – the very real honour - of celebrating Chris the kayaker.

Although Chris paddled energetically and passionately for over 25 years, I myself first met him in Austria in 1997, where he was touring the rivers with his good friend Fred Wondre. My own memory of that trip is pretty much the same as everyone’s first memory of paddling with Chris; frantically trying to follow and keep up with the back of Chris’s kayak as it disappears down challenging and intimidating rapids, whilst Chris calmly makes it all look effortless. For me at least, nothing much changed in the intervening years.

Chris was a remarkably accomplished white water paddler. In the ‘80s - when our modern sport was just taking off, with cags made from leaky nylon, and early plastic kayaks sporting somewhat rudimentary safety features, Chris explored rivers and pioneered difficult rapids and falls all across Britain. It was at this time that he had his infamous accident on Conwy Falls, which earned him the nickname ‘Magic Knees’ and - more tangibly – some rather impressive scars on his legs. Less well known is the way that Chris enabled others to learn from his experience; through talks and workshops at white water safety courses, and later on, through writing honestly and reflectively about the lessons gained from such a harrowing ordeal.

Chris’s passion for river exploration took him beyond our shores and across Europe, the waterfalls of Corsica being a favourite destination. He then travelled further afield, participating in or organising kayaking expeditions to explore deep canyons and gorges in India, Nepal, New Zealand, the USA, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Canada ... yet, he was always modest and understated about his achievements, simply writing magazine articles that were refreshingly free of heroics whilst encouraging and inspiring other paddlers to follow suit. His prolific contributions to the kayak press earned him the official title of Canoe Kayak UK magazine’s ‘Man At Large’ Chris Wheeler.

Back home, Chris always kept dauntingly fit and sharp with jaunts to Dartmoor and Wales at weekends and in the week, with his infamous night-time playboating sessions at Hurley Weir. His love for Hurley arguably bordered on the unhealthy; who names their cat after a lump of concrete in the Thames? This wasn’t a selfish passion however; Chris shared his expertise of the Thames weirs when he volunteered to write the SE section of the book ‘English White Water’.

Chris looked out for and cared for others when paddling. There are people in this room who have been protected from harm by his good judgements, or even rescued from harm by his actions. When Dave Surman was injured on the Mawddach River in Wales, Chris helped to summon helicopter assistance and then later drove to collect Dave from the hospital that he had been flown to. I did hear though, that Chris briefly debated whether he had time to complete another run of the river in-between ...

Chris’s passion for kayaking wasn’t confined to his time on water. He took the time to become well versed in the legal debate around access to our river heritage, and he would utilise his amazing knack for civilised, reasoned debate to pursue this very real issue. Woe betides anybody who attempted to fob Chris off with poor arguments or dodgy evidence. Chris’ finest hour in this respect came when he visited his MP, the well-known Angling lobbyist Martin Salter. I would have given anything to have been a fly on the wall during that discussion; all I do know is that – some considerable time after Chris’ allotted time was up – an exasperated and out-debated Mr Salter MP finally had to show Chris the door and insist that he leave.

In this past decade, Chris developed a new paddling passion; sea kayaking. This was particularly exciting for Chris, because for the first time he could fully share his paddling with Julia in a version of the sport that Julia loved with equal passion. Chris and Julia enjoyed amazing adventures around our coast – don’t start Julia off on the subject of puffins – and then they ventured further afield, with stunning sea kayaking trips to Croatia, Greece, Oman, Vietnam. Julia wasn’t always keen on ‘roughing it’ – and neither was Chris, if truth be told – so Chris worked around this in various ingenious ways. In Vietnam, their sea kayaks were followed around by a rather large Chinese Junk, complete with sleeping berths and kitchen crew on board.

Much harder to put into words, is what Chris meant to us paddlers. I hope that it goes without saying that he was a true friend and a great friend. But the word ‘friend’ seems lacking. It doesn’t begin to do justice to the bond that develops between those who paddle together. Many ... most ... of us here will know this bond. Chris loved to use the phrase ‘weekend warriors’ to describe this unique and precious relationship. We are a ragtag bunch who ostensibly have little in common, besides having Really Dull weekday lives; teachers, managers, scientists, computer geeks, accountants, engineers ... chartered surveyors. But then the working week comes to an end and we join forces ... and we are somehow transformed into something greater than the sum of our parts. We don our paddling gear – our armour, if you like - and become ‘weekend warriors’. I cannot personally muster words that do justice to this relationship that we enjoyed with Chris ... to the wonderful experiences that we shared with him ... to the love that we felt for him. Instead, a chunk of Shakespeare will have to suffice. It’s from Henry V. It’s the bit on the eve of battle, the Saint Crispin’s Day speech where King Henry rallies his comrades.

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here

Goodbye, Chris. On and off the water, we shall miss you always.


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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Steve B »

I've had the words of that final piece of music from Friday going round and round in my head all weekend.
Throw those curtains wide
One day like this a year'd see me right
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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by stewarty905 »

Mark,
dont know you or Chris however

(It’s from Henry V. It’s the bit on the eve of battle, the Saint Crispin’s Day speech where King Henry rallies his comrades.)

Says more than most of us could wish in a friend..your lucky

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Chris Wheeler - Family Eulogy

Post by TimWheeler »

Even with having dispensed with hymns to free up time for speaking, the time contraints meant that the draft required severely cutting to fit within the available time, losing a lot of the detail. I intend to re-write an extended version putting back in the detail covering his earlier years. Below is the text as read (approximately) at the funeral.

My thanks to Julia, Richard and dad's memoirs for much of the content and an abridged sentence lifted from a letter I received from Nick Burne.

When we met to discuss the arrangements, Julia was worried that we may not like some of her ideas, but needn't have as we were totally like minded. I am very grateful to Julia, Kay and Sonia who took the lead in arranging the funeral, whilst ensuring that mum, Phil and I were consulted.

It was good to see that so many attended, a tribute to the high regard with which Chris is held. Anticipating numbers may exceed thae capacity of the Chapel we briefly discussed if it was possible to use a larger venue, but it was not practicable. Thank you to everyone who took the trouble to speak to mum.
---------

Chris Wheeler

To the wider world he is known as The Kayaker.
We are here today to remember him as The Partner, The Son, The Brother, The Uncle, The Close Friend.

------------

Chris was born in August 1964, being the third son of Gordon and Pamela. With a twelve and seven year gap to his elder brothers Philip and Tim, Chris formed a very close friendship with Richard, his virtual twin, who lived next door. So close that they developed their own language, before learning to talk to others.

Pre-school, Chris and Richard created mischief which included numerous antics including weeing in Mum’s boots, which mum found hilarious. This close friendship never wavered despite their lives taking different paths.

Home and family was a very important pillar throughout his life, until later of course Julia became the most significant. However, he remained throughout deeply loyal to his parents, brothers and nieces Jenny and Lizie.

---------------

Chris attended St Swithun’s Primary School where he first demonstrated his single-mindedness to focus strongly on goals that he felt were important. Even at such a young age he was his own person and could be very stubborn, infuriating at times. He excelled and won a scholarship to Abingdon School, where he studied hard, achieved excellent results, and won an award.

He was meticulous Everything had it’s place. On arrival home woe betide mum, if his sandwiches were not ready and cut exactly as he liked. A tidy mind, which allowed him to be very organised and make very effective use of his time.

Free to roam he would often disappear for hours, usually into the woods, including building and breaking camps. The climax was an underground camp at the bottom of the garden. Uncle Arthur rediscovered it a few years later, falling through the roof – clearly Chris was not destined to be a Structural Engineer.

Like his father and brothers, Chris tried cycle touring with Richard, at the age of 12. For years Chris had listened to the tales of Phil and Tim returning from canoeing and surfing trips and it was almost inevitable he would have a go. His apparent natural ability was a result of hours of dedicated training, to perfect every technique.

Chris asked me to teach him to kayak roll and we agreed to have a go in the river and he nearly succeeded at the first session. On my next visit home he asked for the second lesson, to which I replied, ‘I have taught you all you need - have a go’. Chris tried and failed. We expected a swim, but no. He set up again, failed. Set up a 3rd time and succeeded. A one off coaching style for a one off paddler!

He rapidly progressed, paddling with Riverside and the Kingfisher Club at Abingdon, but only dabbled with competition, preferring his personal challenge with the rivers and weirs.

-----------------
With his diverse interest in Architecture, Art and landscape he took a degree course in Land Management at Reading University. Then commenced his career in London, qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor working in management of commercial property.

After a number of different posts he settled at Cluttons Oxford office, where he has been for 10 years, rising to the position of Partner. He took great pride in his work, as in everything he did.

He’d taken a gap year after graduating, doing various work abroad and any available jobs to fund the next adventure.

Already planning further travels, an offer of redundancy pay in 1991 was snatched as the means of funding. He set off on a one year world tour in October 1991, with Richard, but in opposite directions, meeting in Hong Kong. Jointly they travelled Indo China, then continued on their separate travels. From this has followed numerous kayaking and backpacking expeditions. The need for adventure never wavered.

Kayaking took on a dominant role in his life, travelling away at weekends. It was on one of the trips that he had his renowned accident which led to his nickname of ‘Magic Knees’. Back at home with legs out straight in plaster he was determined to be independent, refusing to be pushed in his wheelchair. On finding a wheelchair proof entrance he would abandon the chair and shuffle through the shop on his bottom, an experience that made him a passionate supporter of equality. There are numerous examples of his moral courage defending and befriending disadvantaged people.
Through the incredible skills of two surgeons together with Chris’ stubborn determination he recovered complete use of his legs enabling him to return to his sports.

Evolving from his earlier cycling, his second sport was mountain biking, which he pursued with characteristic enthusiasm. This interest was shared and nurtured with his brother Phil and Richard, with whom he often went biking.

His story writing as a child re-emerged writing numerous articles for kayak journals about his adventures showing his humour, organisation and informed observations of the local cultures.

-----

Feeling there was now room in his life for more, he joined the local tennis club in Reading and a local Architecture course, both of which Julia had previously joined.

Their first date was at a jazz café in London, where Julia thought he was normal and quite cool. It was 3 weeks later that the truth was revealed; to quote Chris: ‘I may have a day job, I might even belong to a tennis club, but this is just a front. The reality is I go paddling all the time, it consumes all my weekends, all my leave and all my money’.

The relationship survived and flourished, sharing mutual values and desires to accommodate each other’s interests and pursuits. Chris and Julia built a home together, founded on a deep commitment to each other, which was central to Chris’ life.
Whilst Julia made good progress at tennis, Chris was never great at it , paddling taking priority over tennis practice. Although not picked for the tennis team he was in great demand for the club quiz teams, usually on the winning side, due to his exceptional breadth of knowledge and interests.

Chris introduced Julia to camping with initial success at an idyllic remote setting, but Julia’s enthusiasm faded with the usual reality of organised sites, and rain.

In 1998 they booked what appeared to be a normal holiday to Victoria Falls involving a 5 star hotel. Chris hadn’t admitted that the promised bubbles would not be champagne, but the white water of the nearby famous Zambezi gorge. Julia rising to the challenge tried rafting it and got so excited that she and Chris tracked down a local with a tandem kayak who agreed to let her go down with him. Much to Chris’ delight, she loved the experience, and gained an understanding of why Chris so loved the sport..

Later they discovered a mutual love of sea paddling which has included trips to Vietnam and this summer an upgrade to specialist sea-kayaks, with the plan that Chris would gradually concentrate more on this and less on white water. I bought his old sea kayak, hoping to find more opportunities to paddle with them. I am certain that Chris and Julia would have gone on to make as big an impact to Sea Kayaking as Chris has to white water.


--------

As indicated by the overwhelming response to his death Chris meant many things to many people.

In essence he was:
• Of a quiet nature but strong of character and mind.
• Determined that anything he did, he did well.
• A mentor and friend to many people
• Honourable and sincere
• Consistent and clear in his sense of right and wrong yet liberal and inclusive.
• A calm voice of reason, not a senseless risk taker.
• There for people when it mattered
• Not obviously emotional, he showed his care by helping people find solutions
• Dedicated and loyal to family and friends.
• Totally committed to Julia.

We have lost someone who set the highest standard, both as a paddler and a person, someone we may strive to emulate, but we will never succeed.

So, we could celebrate the 45 years that he has enriched all of our lives, but today we mourn. We mourn the loss of the many years that were yet to come.

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Mark R »

Please take particular note of, and give due consideration to, the final page posted below.

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by clarky999 »

Thankyou for sharing that, Mark and Tim.

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

Post by Grantm68 »

I never, knowingly, met Chris.
However, as a paddler myself for some years until one of my buddies was unfortunate enough to meet the same tragic circumstances, having worked with his brother Tim for 7 years sharing many stories, and having read the threads on here; I cannot help but think that at sometime our paths have crossed? Whether aside each other in some treachourous break out half way down a rapid, face on down some back water country lane or mountain pass trickily negotiating past each other in vehicles, or, just as likely, at some bar of an evening sharing tales of engaging rivers, insane farmers and their animals or enraged anglers.
Please do not make the same choice that I made when faced with the same dilemma - Chris would want you to continue with your pursuit, nail that elusive eddy and catch that rising wave - whether it was with the first powerful stroke or the last weary stroke of a days paddling. Just as much, at the end of a long day, I am sure he would want you to enjoy a drink and a chat, remebering the good times and the excitement.
Chris will now be elsewhere, hopefully with Mike, enjoying rivers that endlessly flow fast and clean, sun that endlessly shines warm and bright, friendships that endlessly last true and honest and, at the end of the day, chat and beer that (endlessly?) runs refreshing and cold.
May God bless all of you, his family, his friends and the rescue services who did all they could.
Grant

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Re: Chris Wheeler - funeral arrangements

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Mark R wrote:A proportion of the donations will be directed towards the Dartmoor Rescue Group, part of Mountain Rescue England and Wales.
I just learned that the following amounts were donated; £870 to the RNLI and £1,395 to Mountain Rescue England and Wales.
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