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The Brain Donors series

1/12 Mr Albert Webb

Born 24.11.1919

Born in Peckham, Albert worked in print all his life, starting at the age of 14 as a paper cutter on a guillotine. During the war he was called up to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, with which he was sent to Naples. He never saw any fighting, but took an opportunity to visit Rome as often as he could, where he loved going to the opera. His favourite was “Madame Butterfly”. He married Ellen straight after the war, in St. Mary’s Church in Ilford. He spent the last twenty-five working years at the News of the World. Ellen died, after fifty-seven years of marriage, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They used to spend almost all their time together enjoying many mutual hobbies, including bingo and knitting. He used to play bowls, and still likes to keep as active as he can. He is wearing the last jumper he knitted himself, depicting Lucy, his dog who died, was cremated, and whose ashes are kept in an ornate box in his living room. As well as wanting to help to find cure for dementia, Albert enjoys the thought of symbolic immortality that brain donation offers.

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2/12 Mrs Beryl Foreman

16.2.1922–6.11.2009

Born in a little village called Murrow in the Fens, Beryl’s mother was a dressmaker while her father worked as a railway signalman. She married Mr Eric Foreman from Peterborough in 1946. He was an accountant. She has three children and many grandchildren. She worked as a cook, was a member of the WAFS during the war, and was a blood donor for twenty-five years. Beryl and Erick decided to donate their brains to CFAS because both of her sisters suffered from dementia and they wanted to do something to help in finding a cure for it. She wanted to be remembered as an ordinary, kind, ‘just happy’ person.

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3/12 Mrs Betty Munns

Born 7.8.1922

Betty was born in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire where she still lives. She went to a local school until the age of sixteen, then to Business School in Cambridge. Her education was interrupted by the outbreak of the 2nd World War. Her husband was in the Air Force, and after the war became a businessman. He was the first man to bring television to the town where he had worked as an engineer before the war. He died suddenly, over 30 years ago, leaving the family in shock. Betty has travelled a lot since: all over Europe, to China twice, America, and Egypt. She has never felt particularly religious. Conscience is the only reason she decided to become a brain donor.

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4/12 Mrs Brenda Buck

Born 20.3.1925

Born in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, Brenda spent most of her life on the Fens, growing up in the Red Lion Public House ‘right on the Forty Foot Bank’. Married to Mr Ron Buck, who was also a brain donor, they had a son, who is now in Australia. She worked as a hairdresser, in a factory, and on the land. She has never been religious. She enjoyed her life the most from her forties onwards, in particular learning modern and sequence dancing with her husband and son. Now in her eighties, her favourite is line dancing. She thinks that people will remember her mostly for her laughter – “I laugh at anything. Oh dear - They say - Oh, there she goes again! I can’t help it, that’s the way I see life.” She and her husband decided to become brain donors simply to help “other folk”.

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5/12 Mr Eddie Holden

Born 31.3.1927

Born in Norwich to a single working mum, Eddie was brought up by his Victorian grandparents who were strict but very kind. He volunteered for the army at seventeen, joining the Parachute Regiment. During the 2nd World War he was sent to the Far East where he took part in the liberation of prisoners of war from the Japanese camps. This, and not being able to find satisfying answers, made him doubt the idea of God, and to see religion as a ‘man made invention’. He has been married to Mrs Mary Irene Holden for over 50 years, and believes that the recipe for a successful and happy marriage lies in sharing everything and in trust. They live in Little Downham, near Ely, Cambridgeshire. Eddie most enjoyed being young, when life ‘seems so open’, but also looks forward to getting much older. He believes in social justice and writes about local issues to an Ely newspaper. He would like his brain to be used to discover cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s because he thinks, that: “losing memory, not knowing where you are, not knowing who you are, is a terrible thing”. He would like to be remembered for trying to do his best for human race.

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6/12 Mrs Ella Wiltshire

22.5.1908–22.2.2009

Born in Clapham Common, London, Ella was educated at home. She loved history, in particular the Restoration, because ‘they defied the Pope’. She moved to Cambridge after getting married to a handsome and passionate man, Samuel Keith Wiltshire. She thought his name sounded too religious, so she called him Richard. She was over 100 years old when we met her, and even though Richard had died 50 years earlier, she still thought about him all the time. She saw mutual respect and memory as the recipe for lasting love, because “when you remember them, they are never forgotten”. They had a season ticket to Crystal Palace football club, where they enjoyed going on a regular basis. She didn’t have any children. She was a good cook, taking after her father, enjoying sirloin, rib eye and crab most. She loved modelling clothes and was proud of her work in fashion. Her favourite memory was walking down the aisle when she was getting married, and her favourite age was about fifty, when she felt she had done the things she wanted to do. She proudly told us that for her 100th birthday she had enjoyed the entertainments of a male stripper.

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7/12 Mr Eric Stannard

18.2.1922–12.7.2010

Born in Romford to politically active parents, a local Labour Committee mother and a Chairman of the Liberals dad who worked for the Met Police, Eric went to Southall Technical College and completed an apprenticeship at Fairway Aviation before joining the Air Force. He became a Conservative and an active Anglican Catholic. During the war he was sent to India and Singapore, but luckily he never saw any fighting. He was married and had one daughter. After the war, he continued to work as a designer and an engineer. He was in amateur dramatic and operatic societies, doing many shows, plays, and musicals, with “Waiting for Godot”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, and “Oklahoma” amongst his favourites. He was a blood donor and carried an organ donation card most of his life. Brain donation was, for him, a logical thing to do.

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8/12 Mrs Irene Overton

27.2.1910–8.7.2009

Born in Kensington, Irene spent her childhood in Wallington, near Croydon. She was the youngest of nine children. Her mother ran lodgings in the house, her father was a carpenter. She was proud to be the only one to have gone to high school, for which she received a scholarship. Irene lived in France for one year after leaving school. She married Allan Overton, a baker. Before moving to Cambridge they had a restaurant business in Margate, where she did most of the cooking and serving. They had two daughters. She was given the Editor’s Choice Award, for outstanding achievement in poetry by the International Society of Poets in 1996. She saw love as overrated, loved ballroom dancing, singing and sherry; and enjoyed watching tennis and horse races. She had no patience for laziness. She was happy to leave part of her body to science, believing that the only things that matter at the end, are memories.

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9/12 Mrs Ivy Pettifor

Born 25.1.1915

Born in London into a family of dressmakers, Ivy was the second oldest of the family of six children. She lived in many places, including Dagenham, Essex, New Cross, Camberwell, and on the Old Kent Rd. Ivy had two children – a son and a daughter, but always worked, first as a dressmaker, then taking a part-time job in a bakery when she had her son, before returning to needlework, and finally, in hospitals. She enjoyed working at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital the most. She used to love playing piano and entertaining people, especially during the war. She moved to Cambridgeshire over twenty-five years ago. Ivy decided to be a brain donor in 1991, because some of her family members suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She doesn’t believe in live after death or focusing too much on the sad side of life.

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10/12 Mr Leslie Whitfield

17.9.1910

Born in Potton, near Sandy, Leslie worked as an apprentice at a grocery store. At twenty-one he joined the police force in Cambridge and was the first sergeant from there go to police college. In 1934 he married Mrs Grace Whitfield, a secretary who taught him touch-typing. She died on the 60th anniversary of their wedding. They had three sons born between 1937 and 1945, making the wartime one of the most fulfilling times of his life. He retired from the police force after over thirty years to take an appointment with the Law Society. An active member of the Church, a deacon, treasurer, Sunday school superintendant and local preacher; he has always enjoyed working with children the most. Mr Leslie Whitfield wanted to be part of the project but preferred not to have his current photograph taken. He sees donation as part of his Christian attitude; in which helping others and self-effacement play an important part. He decided to become a donor about thirty years ago. He attributes his brain lasting so well most of all to God, and secondly to keeping mentally, spiritually, and physically active whilst enjoying all things in moderation.

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11/12 Mrs Lucy Ridsdale

Born 18.9.1910

Mrs Lucy Ridsdale is now 101. She remembers things well until 1936, from then, as her daughter, Mrs Elisabeth Ryan explains, her memory is often gone. She was born in Great Yarmouth in 1910. She went to Girls’ Teacher Training College in Norwich and studied to become a deaconess and a linguist. She went on to teach in a boarding school in Hoima, Uganda, where she soon became a Head Mistress. Her husband, then a priest of the Church of England but later a Bishop, was a district school supervisor in Uganda. They had five children. She was one of the first women to be a deaconess, ordained around 1964. She then spent another ten years working in Congo. She has always kept her mind active, often translating the Sunday gospel into French, Luganda, Greek, and in English before going to church.

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12/12 Prof. Frank Walbank

10.12.1909–23.10.2008

Born in Bingley, Yorkshire, Frank went to a grammar school before winning a scholarship to Cambridge University from which he graduated in 1931. He was a lecturer in Cambridge, Manchester, and Liverpool before becoming a Professor of Latin, and then Greek and Ancient History. He went on to have an internationally acclaimed career as an eminent classicist. He later became a Dean at the University of Liverpool before retiring in 1977. He married Mrs Mary Walbank in 1935. They had three children. He died in Cambridge where he lived next door to his daughter Dorothy Thompson. Author of numerous books, he was for many years considered amongst the most distinguished historians of the ancient world and was awarded many prestigious titles from academic institutions. Frank was a rationalist but preferred Aristotle to Plato for being more ‘down to earth’. He loved poetry and walking, especially in the Yorkshire Dales. He decided to become a brain donor so his brain could be utilised for research, for the future.

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