More than a hundred people packed out Chester Crematorium to pay their respects to a former soldier who had few family and friends living nearby.
The death of Alan ‘Alfie’ Foster, also known as Foz, touched the hearts of the Chester public two weeks ago after funeral directors G&M Goold appealed for local people to attend his cremation.
With only a brother who doesn’t live close by and few local friends, they wanted to ensure his death did not go unnoticed and asked The Chronicle to help publicise an appeal for the public to pay their respects to Alfie at his funeral, held this morning (Tuesday, January 26).
Scores of people, many of them from the military, in a nod to Alfie’s 22 years spent as a Corporal in the Cheshire Regiment where he played the French horn, honoured the plea and turned out to give him a fitting send off.
Crowds watched in silence as standard flagbearers from Alfie’s regiment gave his coffin a guard of honour as he arrived at the crematorium. He was carried in to the sound of a bugle playing and the hymn Abide With Me.
Inside the crematorium, speaker Martin Bawdry, who had volunteered to officiate at the service, spoke about Alfie and read out tributes and anecdotes from those who had loved him.
“We’re all here today to bear witness to his life and mark his passing with a collective show of both sympathy and support,” he said. “Many of you didn’t know him personally but wanted to come here today and pay your respects.
“Alfie became ill in May 2015 and had subsequent submissions to both the Countess of Chester and Ellesmere Port Hospitals before his journey through life came to an end and he died on Christmas Eve aged 77,” he added, before reading out memories from soldier friends who had known the man they fondly called a ‘teller of tall stories’ and ‘a bit of a lad’.
Born in London, Alfie had been a big West Ham fan and even played for Leyton Orient as a youngster. As a young musician he had a great knowledge and skill of the French horn and he was always there to offer advice about music with a great sense of timing and always knew exactly where he was up to in the music. At one point Alfie even played in the Halle orchestra in Manchester.
He had ‘a wicked sense of humour’ and took great pleasure in winding people up - although he was never offensive about it, one of his soldier friends said.
“He was just a genuinely nice man -myself and others truly respected him greatly,” another said.
In August 1982 after 22 years with the band, Alfie left the Cheshire Regiment as the oldest Corporal there at the time, amid a haze of ‘farewell parties, brandy fumes and nostalgia’.
After leaving, he became a painter and decorator and met his great friend Lynn, a neighbour in the Hoole flats they both lived in.
Lynn remembered: “Alfie was 47 and I was a cheeky 18 year old when our friendship began 30 odd years ago. There are not enough words to praise Alfie, he had a huge heart and was always there for my family and friends. I’ll never forget you, I love you always, Lynn.”
Nessun Dorma was played in the service as the congregation reflected, before a bugle player played a poignant version of The Last Post as the curtain fell.
Mr Bawdry said: “None of you had to be here today but you’ve all chosen to be, for Alfie. I hope this has reminded you of our human capacity for genuine showings of kindness."
He closed the service with a reading of the uplifting poem ‘Look To Each Day’.