William Francis Reginald Oliver

Also known as: Bill.

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1925 - 2010

I offer these words to help celebrate the life of a well-known and much-loved member of the community in Port Isaac, North Cornwall. I am going to attempt to encompass Bill Oliver’s life in a few lines, and naturally, I am destined to fail.

William Francis Reginald Oliver. Known to us all as Bill. A loving and devoted husband to Nina, a father to Tricia, a grandfather to Lucie and Kitty and, I’m proud to say, my father-in-law.

Bill was born in St Teath on the 14th of September, 1925 and he was to be the eldest of eight children. Of the original family, Bill leaves his two sisters Margaret and Rosemary.

Very much a self-made man, after winning a scholarship to grammar school, Bill left to help provide for the family by turning his hand to a wide variety of jobs. These included working in a local quarry, helping his uncle to run a mobile cinema and he even took on a stint as a taxi driver. Bill later joined the Royal Air Force to eventually become a Flight Sergeant Air Gunner, stationed in Cairo.

After his wartime service, Bill returned to Cornwall and on the 27th of January 1951, Bill Oliver and Nina Steer stepped through the doorway of St Peter’s Church and were married.

Bill settled to a career in insurance working for a number of large companies. During this time, Bill and Nina’s daughter, Tricia, was born, in 1955, for that I’m bound to say thank you. Bill’s love of his Cornish heritage was put to the test when he was offered a promotion which would have meant moving away from Port Isaac to London. This was an offer he was to decline. Bill’s decision demonstrated one of his guiding principles in life which was “wanting what you’ve got” rather than “getting what you want”. In due course, Bill was to set up his own insurance brokerage and he was a founding partner of Mid-Cornwall Brokers in Bodmin, which is still a thriving local business today.

After a working life during which he had become a well-known and respected local figure, Bill retired at the age of 61 and started 23 years of a happy and active retirement where he and Nina developed a range of interests including collecting antique glass, visiting New Zealand no less than nine times, where they made many more new friends, and latterly becoming part of the local whist playing circuit. This was in addition to Bill being crowned Cornish draughts champion and over 40 years of playing billiards in the Port Isaac Liberal Club. But Bill’s abiding passion was his vegetable garden from which his family, friends and neighbours have been grateful recipients for many years. Bill was gardening up until a few days before he went into hospital earlier this month. I am sure that the photograph of him here is how he would like to be remembered.

So much for the biography; what of the man? So many old-fashioned qualities, where to begin? Humility, absolute honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness and a deep sense of natural justice were all part of his make-up. Bill was a ‘proper’ person in every sense. I will always remember these attributes, but above all I will recall and treasure his sense of humour. It never failed him, even when he was challenged with cancer ten years ago. The way he coped with its legacy with such good grace and never a complaint, was inspirational. The family has lost a keystone, a confidante, sage and advisor but they have all been deeply touched with the genuine offers of support from friends and neighbours in all directions, for which we thank you. When they heard of Bill’s death, Aunt Avice’s pasty shop in St Kew Highway offered to start baking especially early on the morning of his funeral to provide the refreshments. Bill was just a customer, but clearly a special one.

Although not a church-goer, Bill was a christian, with a small ‘c’. He wore his faith lightly and demonstrated it every day in the way he dealt with people. He accepted every person for what they were.

Celebrating the life of one who has gone brings a mix of emotions. In doing so, I will be helped by remembering Bill’s own attitude and approach to life. The price you pay for loving somebody is the pain you feel when they have gone. But so much better to have loved than not. I would be so much the poorer for not having known Bill.

Ian Norwell

Added by: Ian Norwell on 16th November 2010.


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Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
67 Portland Place, London W1B 1AR
0800 169 2942
Registered Charity No. 1081009