Thank you John and Freda

Bishop Pat offered up his Friday morning Mass on 25th August for John and Freda Vine, who many parishioners will remember as true stalwarts of the parish, John having been part of the parish for most of his life.  After living for many years in Danson Road, they finally decided to downsize to a bungalow, finding the ideal property in the village of Hartley, Kent.  It was a humble farewell, as the Mass was followed by refreshments in the small hall for the weekday Mass goers who happened to be there.  John and Freda didn’t want a fuss, but I felt they merited a tribute here on the blog, so they have kindly supplied their stories, which follow.

John and Freda are tireless, inspiring workers who will be greatly missed, but they deserve to have a quieter life in the countryside.  Since the Covid lockdown, John led the Rosary for peace virtually every day before Mass, but he sowed a seed because that has continued since he left, led by a variety of people who think that is vitally important.  Younger people have stepped forward to take charge of the choir which John and Freda led for decades, so I believe they felt that they could finally take life rather easier.

Happy and blessed “retirement” John and Freda.

Gwen Chiosso

John and Freda
At the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI in 2010

John was born in Welling in 1940, the fifth of seven children, in one of two houses which were demolished to make space for what is now Morrisons car park. He was baptised at St. Stephen’s a week or so later. He started at St. Stephen’s School in 1944 and made his First Holy Communion at Easter 1946 when he was only 5½ years old. A few years later he became an altar server and was instructed by Father (later Bishop) Charles Henderson.  With another school friend he regularly served at the 8.15 Mass and ate breakfast at school, where the cleaners provided a cup of tea. He passed his 11+ and went to St. Joseph’s Academy, leaving school in 1958 to start work, first for the Port of London Authority and later the Inland Revenue where he spent the rest of his working life. He was confirmed at St. Stephen’s at the appropriate age. Shortly after starting work, his sister Jean introduced him to a school friend called Freda whom he married in 1961, also at St. Stephen’s, with Father (later Canon) Jeremiah McCarthy officiating.  More about Freda later.

Their first home was in Barnehurst, but they returned to Welling in 1966 in order for the children to attend St. Stephen’s School, all 6 of them. As the family expanded, they moved to a larger house in Bexleyheath but St. Stephen’s continued to remain their much loved Parish. John worked in various capacities in the Parish, first as a member – and later Chairman – of the Parish Council, which included all sub committees, including a Drama Group in which he was involved for many years. He served as Governor at St. Stephen’s School for a number of years. At Freda’s behest he joined the St. Stephen’s Folk Choir in which she had been involved for many years, having learnt to play guitar in his late teens.

Freda and John regularly attended the Lesnes Abbey Procession
Freda and John regularly attended the Lesnes Abbey Procession

With his brother-in-law, brother and friend, John played in a small pop group/dance band for many functions in the Parish Hall, particularly raising money for the new Scout Headquarters which was built near Welling Station; no longer there. At this time, he also served as Group Scout Leader. After retirement he became more active in CAFOD where he visited primary schools throughout Kent.

He also joined St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) where he still remains an active member despite leaving the Parish. Having always been a keen gardener, having for a time run an allotment to help feed the family, he then undertook to cut the lawns around the church and parish hall until he reached his eighties. Being a DIY man, he also did various odd jobs around the church. Together with Freda he was also involved with Contact the Elderly, now known as Re-engage, which provided monthly tea parties for the elderly and housebound. He joined a succession of parishioners who had acted as co-ordinators for the group.

More about Freda

Having been baptised a Christian (on the day WW2 was declared), she attended St. Michael’s C of E Primary School, Welling, until passing her 11+. She started at St. Joseph’s Convent Grammar School in Abbey Wood as her mother wanted her to continue with a good education. This was her first encounter with Catholics which probably influenced her later decision to look more deeply into the Catholic faith. By that time she became engaged to John and they were both encouraged, after she was received into the Church, to participate in church activities and so joined the Legion of Mary which helped to strengthen their faith. This probably helped them in their commitment to Parish life.

When mothers with young children found it difficult to embrace the Union of Catholic Mothers, an offshoot was formed which became the Thursday Club. During her time as President, she organised trips to Aylesford on Holy Days, and invited various speakers to inform and interest members at their evening meetings while husbands babysat. She was persuaded to join the Folk Choir when it was first formed in order to help with the younger members who had joined (including their daughter Teresa). This choir which started on a Sunday evening was later asked to change to Sunday morning 10.00 Mass where, after many changes in membership, it still remains at what is now the 9.30 Mass.

Freda and John's Garden Party
The final Garden Party in Danson Road, 2019

As the children got older, she joined John in the Drama Group for many years. After retirement, she joined the Keep Fit Group (for seniors) in the Parish Hall, which she still attends because of contact with friends. Also a keen gardener, she enjoyed selling surplus plants to raise money for Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice and CAFOD. Many friends and parishioners may remember John and Freda’s Garden Parties at Danson Road to raise money for CAFOD pre Covid.

John & Freda Vine