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17th December 1962 - 8th May 2015
On Thursday 28th May, 2015 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Sue Ash was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the bidding:-
We are here to do a very difficult thing; which is to say a final farewell to Sue, who was much loved and who will be greatly missed by all who knew her, as we entrust her into the loving arms of the God who gave her life.
During the few months in which I was privileged to know Sue, her amazing ability to light up any room that she entered, simply by her presence, even during her final illness, remained truly extraordinary. And a few days before she died she was able to be with us here with us at St Bride's, because she was determined to make it to a final Sunday service. And as always it was a very great blessing to have her among us,
So alongside the sadness of saying goodbye, this is also an opportunity for us to give thanks for all that she has meant to us, and for all that she was, as we celebrate her life, and rejoice that the world was a richer place for her presence within it - and our lives the more blessed for having known her.
We come into your presence to give thanks for Sue,
Whom we love but see no longer,
and to seek comfort and consolation at her loss.
As we entrust her into your loving care,
give us the strength to rejoice that she is now safely held within your presence, restored to fullness of life,
And help us to know in our hearts that the day will come when we, too, may find life and peace and perfect joy with her, in your loving presence.
In Jesus name we pray.
Peter Silva (aka Mr Ash)
Just a week or so before Sue died she woke me with some urgency at two in the morning and said: "I think I know what I want said and sung at my funeral", which had me rolling out of bed searching for pen and paper.
The choice of that anthem that the choir have just brilliantly sung was, I confess, a bone of contention. While Sue was a Liverpool supporter, eldest son David - following in his fathers, grandfathers and great, great grandfathers footsteps is though and though a West Ham man!
(Thank you David, for stepping up to take the first penalty - I mean the First Reading!)
I did point out that our excellent St Bride's Choir sings "I'm forever Blowing Bubbles" beautifully every year for a Stationers service but, as you now know; the Reds got the win!
And if that wasn't bad enough, yours truly was suggested, no instructed, to deliver The Address . . . ."Because" she said "no one knows me better than you."
I'm sure that's not entirely true but many kind friends and family members have filled the gaps in my knowledge - for which I am grateful.
Mom, Margarette and Dad Victor adopted Sue just a few months after she was born on 17th December 1962 with little sister Nikki born in November 1964.
Lucky old Margarette - Two little girls under two!
Sue attended Leighswood infant school (a little Angel in the Nativity play) and then the Junior school where she was a member of the cup winning Netball Team.
But it was not just sport in which Sue strived to excel. A cup winner again; in an elocution contest and, moving on to Aldridge Grammar, appearing in their stage production of Sweeny Todd.
It was from Aldridge Grammar that she went on to Manchester University to read English Literature and American Studies - and then stayed on an extra year after graduating to run the student magazine "Mancunian".
We have a number of Old Mancunians here this morning and as their fellow alumni, Daniel put it to me last week: "I'm not sure I will have an opportunity to say this on 28th because there will be so many others saying what I believe too - that Sue was very special. She was the best of us and I always cherished knowing her." Thank you Daniel.
It is fitting to mention here, in this the Journalists' Church that in 1986 Sue won the Guardian/NUS Student Journalist Award for her work on the Mancunian.
I was always bemused by the fact that Sue chose not to enter 'Fleet Street' - (although, of late, she had been writing some property articles under her more legally correct title, Sue Silver!) - choosing instead to come to London as an EMAP graduate trainee working on the production of several of their computer titles.
By 1991 Sue had decided that PR would best suit her communication skills and she joined Heather Tilbury Associates who very much specialised in the 'Fashion' end of the market.
Sue was rightly proud of the fact that she managed the European PR campaign which made Tactel into a leading fashion and sportswear textile brand for ICI.
More importantly she met and worked alongside the highly talented Lynda Heath. (And thank you Lynda for your beautiful rendition of Henry Scott Holland's poem - the only thing that it didn't stir was my wagging finger!)
After Sue founded her own company in 1994 she soon reunited with Lynda who for the past ten years has been Managing Director of Ash Communications.
Sue's first Ash office was above the Agency Private Members' Club that I started with my business partner, Malcolm Beskin in 1993. Silver's Pipe Dream. A pipe dream that Sue not only supported but actively encouraged. Then followed ten very happy years for us - with me playing mine host at table or behind the bar, and Sue and her team of very attractive, young PR ladies working away upstairs - and more often or not relaxing in the club with other members in the evening.
After buying our present Bloomsbury flat in 1999 Sue decided we had room for a dog and our first cream Golden Retriever, Kir, became another adorable blond in the Agency Bar!
Not only a 'Bar Dog', as she also joined Sue's Goddaughter Daisy and Sue's sister Nikki as our 'third Bridesmaid' when David Meara married us here in St Brides on the 28th June 2003. (Thank you David for your kind words and rendition of Desiderata.)
So much for the history of Susan Jane Ash. But what of the woman herself?
I think this is better summed up by quoting from a few more of the many letters and emails I have received over the last couple of weeks:
Sue was the initiator, founder and chair of AIPP (the Association of International Property Professionals) and one of her long-standing colleagues Xavier Wiggins (here today, but alas his wife Carol is at home child-minding) wrote this:
Sue will be so missed but, more importantly, so fondly remembered. Her strength and wisdom were immense. She certainly helped me on a number of occasions with sound advice. Carol and I were just talking about how she would always remember detail and be genuinely interested in people. She would care passionately about the happiness and success of others. The couple of per cent of her life that I knew, were I am sure, matched by the rest that I didn't.
Sue's childhood friend Lesley (now married to Jason) wrote: Whilst Sue may not have had the opportunity to live the full length of her life with you, together you definitely lived the width of it!
We certainly did Lesley! (Although I found when travelling with 'Ms Ash' I was often referred to as 'Mr Ash' . . . which amused her greatly!)
Sue's Oncologist, Maurice Slevin, commented that "she was a very charming and special lady who coped with her treatment stoically and without complaint". He went onto say; "Her charming manner and endearing personality made everyone who looked after her extremely fond of her in the time we had the privilege to know her."
But perhaps my nephew Nick sums up Sues qualities best when he recalled the November night many years ago that his father Terry died when, after a call from my sister Valerie, my then girlfriend Sue and I drove off to see them. Nick recalls:
The night that Mum, the girls and I shared our darkest hour after losing dad was the same night that we met Sue for the first time. As I've grown older I've often reflected on that evening and thought of how horribly difficult that night would have been for her. How reasonable it would have been for Sue to have wanted to wait in the car or get dropped off - or just been anywhere but there. It must have been horrific. Yet she came in, introduced herself and offered her help in any way she could.
It didn't mean too much to a 15 year old boy, but as I've grown older I've thought about it often. It stands out as one of the most inspiring acts of selfless compassion and courage that I've witnessed firsthand. Knowing that someone who, at that time, was a complete stranger but wanted to help us at such a difficult time has nurtured a fondness for Sue that has made her feel like close family - despite seeing her so infrequently.
On the occasions that I've found myself in a mentoring role I've often used that story to illustrate how small and seemingly simple acts can massively influence lives and shape relationships. How you don't need acts of grand heroics to be a hero to someone.
When the time is right, we will tell our son Acer and his soon-to-be-born sister about Sue and how we first met. It will inspire them too, and that wonderful spirit will live on. Unfortunately Helen (Nick's wife) will have a rampaging Acer and ever growing bump to supervise at home but wild horses couldn't keep me from showing our love for Sue on the 28th, I'll be there if there's still room. If not, I'll be on the pavement outside.
Thank you Nick - and I'm pleased you're not outside on the pavement!
Nick may not be outside but you may have noticed that out there are gathered representatives of her other very special friends - the four-legged variety!
Through our much loved Kir who was with us for 14 years and now Bellini, not yet two and collected from Carlisle immediately after Sue had her Chemo Port inserted, she made many canine friends that loved her as much as she adored them.
Their owners too became firm friends and their companionship and support has certainly helped us both over the last few months.
So there you have it. Sue Ash . . . Dog-lover, Business-woman, Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors, an associate of the London Academy of Dramatic Art, a member of the Institute of Public Relations, Institute of Directors, London Chamber of Commerce, several professional associations and on the electoral roll of this magnificent church of St Bride that she loved.
A beautiful woman with great intelligence, integrity and kindness who had a fabulous ability to have fun - together with a sense of humour that endeared her to the many people she met over her 52 years who went on to become her friends.
All those friends and colleagues will miss her greatly; as will our two families, her sister Nikki and her very much loved mother, Margarette.
I fell in love with Sue at first sight and that love continues today.
We have had some great times together, travelled to far flung places in the world, enjoyed concerts, theatre, cinema and restaurants both as a couple and in the company of that wide circle we were privileged to call our friends - and that are here today - wearing something green - as she requested!
Sue really was my best friend, my biggest supporter, my life Mentor, my constant companion, trusty navigator in the car and for the last eleven years, ten months and two weeks of her life - my loving and beautiful wife.
As a good husband, I'm trying to do as she asked:
'Staying strong, and carrying on'.
David Silver read 1 John 4: 7, 6-19
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
Lynda Heath, MD, Ash Communications read All Is Well by Henry Scott Holland
When Peter asked me to read this poem my first thought was how can I possibly pay tribute to my dearest, beautiful friend Sue whose immense life has so cruelly been cut short,
whose love and friendship we shared and all cherish,
whose intellect, inspiration, selflessness and generosity of spirit we will all miss,
and whom we admire and respect more than words can say;
how can I possibly keep myself together after listening to that heart-wrenching song;
but most of all I thought how can I possibly do this justice so that I don’t get Peter wagging his finger at me;
so here goes …
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Venerable David Meara read Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
I first really got to know Sue when she and Peter approached me nearly twelve years ago about getting married in St Bride’s. She wasn’t someone who opened up quickly or wore her heart on her sleeve, but once she allowed you through that initial reserve you found a warm, sensitive, highly intelligent and determined person with strong affection and loyalties.
When I think of Sue I think of her accompanied by her dog – Kir and then Bellini – they were very much part of the family, and meant a great deal to her.
Through her marriage to Peter she blossomed because there was deep mutual love and Peter gave Sue confidence to be herself, and to flourish both as a person and a businesswoman.
Her illness and death is a tragic blow, to Peter, and to all of us who knew her and loved her. Nothing can fill the gap she has left in our lives, but the passage I am going to read, Desiderata, very aptly sums up Sue’s beliefs and her philosophy of life.
And that is something we can all affirm and live out in our own lives in remembrance of her.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
The Sentences - Croft
Bring Him Home from Les Miserables - Schönberg / Kretzmer
You'll Never Walk Alone - Rodgers & Hammerstein arr. Shearman
Nunc Dimittis - Stanford in G
I've Got You Under My Skin - Cole Porter
Morning Has Broken
Lord Of All Hopefulness
Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven