On Thursday, John Richards and David Instone attended Barry Stobart’s funeral and saw to it that we could post a detailed first-hand account of proceedings.
We now present the moving tribute penned by his Antigua-based youngest son Loy and read out in church in his absence by his brother Sean:
All that are gathered here today share one thing in common. We feel the need to give thanks and wish a beautiful man a safe passage to his new journey, his next quest.
We all have our perceptions of who Dad was but I saw three characteristics in him that I have attempted to use all my life – as a son, as a man, as a teacher and as a father.
The first is that of unconditional love. Hafiz the Sufi poet writes: “Even after all these years, the sun never says to the earth: ‘You owe me. Look what happens to a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.’”
Dad never once asked for anything in return. He would pick me up when I had broken down, fixed my car, took me fishing, took me training, and the list goes on. But not once did he use it to gain leverage for a favour in return, or throw it in my face when my conduct was less than what was expected.
He loved me…..full stop. He didn’t love me IF I returned a favour or followed his way of thinking. He had the strength to love me unconditionally.
Speaking about self belief when playing football, Dad used to say to me: “If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.” Although I didn’t master this in my playing days, upon reflection it was apparent that he understood himself and loved himself also without condition. That of total self belief manifested in his life….. he really shone as a footballer as a coach, as a man.
The second trait Dad showed in abundance was humility. An old Chinese visionary 2,500 years ago wrote about the art of living by remaining ‘low.’ The ocean’s powerful force, its depth, and its vastness, is maintained by its position of remaining low. All rivers and streams are inescapably drawn to it because it stays lower than them all.
Dad conducted himself with the greatest humility. He didn’t have to talk about himself, his achievements, his opinions or his beliefs. Inevitably, by remaining low, listening, being respectful to whoever he was with, people would feel compelled to ask him his opinions, beliefs and football achievements.
Every now and then, we still get mail for him to sign – something he used to take great satisfaction in doing at my expense. Reminding me in his cocky yet at the same time, sympathetic tone ‘This is what happens when you’ve played at the top, sunshine,’ he would chuckle to himself. In my sadistic sense of humour, I would follow this by burning his hand or back of his neck with a hot teaspoon, swiftly followed by a mad dash out of the kitchen to avoid a clip around the ear.
The third trait I observed more than any other was his ability to stick to a task and give 100 per cent in whatever he was doing; whether it be window cleaning, fishing, playing football, building a fireplace, wall or shed, ironing his clothes, or making his incredible home-made chips.
Dad had this ability to dedicate himself with immense focus and the results were always successful. His creations, his performances, were born out of the clarity of his thoughts, a clear image of where he wanted to go and most importantly in his football, his ability to dream big.
His childhood was so harsh that all he had was his imagination and dreams, which he played out day to day with the best pal who we all love, Roy Twynham. Roy is here with us today.
It seemed ironicle that Dad should die on the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. So I will end with an excerpt from another speech Dr King gave, that I have always been inspired by and which encapsulates what I saw in my dad as I grew up.
Dr King writes: “And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that, the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and Earth will have to pause and say: ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’
“If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best at whatever you are.”
Thank-you for those long summer days on the riverbank and lake, Dad. Thank-you for your patience in trying to bestow upon me your footballing talents. I tried my best.
Thank-you for cleaning all those windows for all those years, keeping a roof over our heads, and food on the table. What magic times we had. My greatest teacher, my best friend.
Until we meet again, I wish you infinite love and peace.