Geoffrey Wheeler funeral Jan 2014

RSS

undefinedThe funeral has taken place at a packed St Peter's church, Hale, of Geoffrey Wheeler, the presenter of TV's ‘Songs of Praise' and quiz show ‘Top of the Form'. The broadcaster died aged 83 on 30 December in Prestbury, following a long illness.

His illustrious TV career included work on ‘Winner Takes All’ and ‘Call My Bluff’ – and he was much admired locally as a Reader, often leading services at St Peter’s and at St Elizabeth’s church in nearby Ashley.

The funeral service featured a tribute from Ernest Rae (previous BBC Head of Religious Broadcasting) and a reading by Delia Corrie.  The Vicar, the Revd Libby Lane, led the service and also read a tribute.

The Revd Canon David Ashworth, who was Vicar at Hale from 1978 to 1996, knew Geoffrey very well, and spoke fondly of him at the service. He told mourners: “Whatever he was in the BBC and to the world at large, in the parish Geoffrey was one of us, one of a team serving God in worship, in preaching and in praying together.

“It was my predecessor, Don Lewis, who set Geoffrey on the road to becoming a Reader.  In response to a parish campaign not to raise money but seek out talents Don had described Geoffrey’s offer of mowing the church lawns as a waste and he was determined to find a better use of his  gifts as a communicator.  And so Geoffrey became a Lay Reader.

“According to parish legend the vicar and other Readers were always relieved that they were not the one to follow Geoffrey on the preaching rota. His sermons always so immaculately prepared that the others always felt that the joints always showed in their own efforts.

“A visiting preacher, a clergyman and longstanding friend of mine who possessed no TV and who had almost certainly never heard or seen ‘Songs of Praise’ listened to Geoffrey read and after the service made a point of asking ‘who is that man.’ 

"That illustrates more clearly than anything else I could say how fine Geoffrey’s presentation was. When Geoffrey read it was in such a way that attention was drawn not to himself but to the meaning of the scripture passage."

David Ashworth earlier said: “Geoffrey’s charming TV presenter image was no front – he really was a kind and caring man. I remember once when he was taking a service in Yorkshire, a parishioner’s wife was very disappointed that she couldn’t be at the church to see and hear Geoffrey – because she was at home incapacitated. When he heard about that he said ‘well, I can easily go to visit her at her home’ and that’s exactly what he did. That’s the sort of man he was. Everyone is going to miss him.”

During the funeral service (held on Friday, 24 January) there was a reading from Revelation 21:1-7 about the vision of a new heaven and a new earth.

The hymns were: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’; ‘Guide Me, Oh Though Great Redeemer’;  ‘Oh Lord, My God, When I in Awesome Wonder ‘ (popularly known as ‘How Great Though Art’); and ‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord’. They were played by the Salvation Army Band of Sale Citadel supported by the choir of St Peter’s.

A Reader friend of Geoffrey’s, John Moss, said: “He was a tremendous communicator but also a very modest man. I have fond memories of seeing of him, polishing up his sermons in the vestry before each service he took. He came across as very warm on television and that’s exactly how he was in real life. He will be sorely missed.”

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster said: “Geoffrey Wheeler was a much-valued Reader in our diocese, and had the most perfect speaking voice in church. He was an unassuming man who gave great service in many areas of life.”

Geoffrey is survived by his son Robin and daughter Juliet.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
 

Geoffrey is pictured above and below from his days as BBC presenter