Published on 4 March 2021

Lee Calladine, DRWF Educational Events Co-ordinator, remembers long standing supporter and friend of the charity over many years, John Daniels, who we recently learned died last year.

Depending on the dictionary you use, the definition of friendship is summed up with words like kindness, empathy, compassion, loyalty and fun, and is described as a sharing of common beliefs and values within a relationship of mutual affection, an enjoyment of each other's company, the ability to be oneself and express one's feelings without fear of judgment.

I believe this sums up our long friendship with John, and the setting in which that relationship grew perfectly. We first met John when he attended a Diabetes Wellness Weekend with us back in 2009. It was held at Heron’s Reach in Blackpool and following that he joined us each year at weekends all over the country. He also regularly came to our regional Diabetes Wellness Days across the north.

We always intended our Diabetes Wellness Weekends, not to be just about learning how to manage living with diabetes, but also to foster a sense of community, bringing people together in a supportive environment where experiences were shared, friendships forged, and everyone realised they were not alone when it came to coping, managing, and facing life with diabetes.

John loved our annual reunions and was always a willing and vocal participant in the many workshops and activities. As well as entertaining us with his stories and anecdotes after dinner in the evenings, he was always chomping at the bit to get hold of the microphone to praise and thank everyone involved in supporting the events. He was a real gentleman, always immaculately turned out, punctual and ready to greet you with a smile and a witty remark.

John and I regularly exchanged cards and letters and he often phoned in to the charity to keep me posted on what was happening with his busy schedule. He always seemed to be on the go, heading off on a coach trip, going to choir practice or community meetings, but he always found time to keep in touch.

Group photograph
A group photo from a DRWF Diabetes Wellness Day - with DRWF Events Co-ordinator Lee Calladine, front centre, with John Daniels to his left

John’s Story

John was born on 24th July 1928 in Godalming, Surrey and at only a few months old he was adopted by George and Marjorie Daniels. When he was eight-years-old John was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent more than two years in hospital. Unfortunately, as is often the case, in that time he caught many other illnesses including mumps, measles, chicken pox and scarlet fever. This resulted in a transfer to an isolation hospital and surgery, before being sent to convalesce on the Isle of Wight, a place he often visited throughout his life.

John then moved to live with his grandparents in Atherstone, Warwickshire. Here he attended a Catholic school and became involved with the church, serving as an altar-boy. He also joined the scouts, rising through the ranks to become a Rover Scout, a position he held throughout life. He met scouts from many other countries and was lucky enough to meet the founder Baden Powell himself. He was particularly honoured to be picked as the British Scout Movement representative at a World Scout event in Switzerland. Scouting gave John travel experience and a strong set of positive values that served him through his life. He remained close to the church throughout, even spending time with monks of the Dominican Order and once considered whether this was his calling.

Another passion was amateur dramatics, especially delivering comedy monologues, something he did to the great amusement of everyone at the Diabetes Wellness Weekends. Through theatre, he met and became firm friends with William Sulley White, then using the stage name Billy Breen - and who later found fame as Larry Grayson. The two remained in contact throughout their lives.

John Daniels 1 Web

John during his time in the RAF

John was too young to serve in the war, so joined the Air Training Corps instead and later the Royal Air Force. He served as fire officer and managed the base gym where he developed a passion for wrestling. This became a lifelong interest, first as a competitor and later as a spectator. John was also posted to North Wales, where he joined the mountain rescue team and then to Blackpool where he became the camp cinema projectionist.

John with his wife Shirley

John left the service in 1948 and shortly afterwards met his beloved wife Shirley when they both performed at a pageant to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. They started courting, fell in love and were married the following year. They remained devoted to each other for nearly 50 years until Shirley’s death in 2003.

Among his job roles and many hobbies, John had a love of sailing and family members would often have to crew for him whether they wanted to or not. John also changed career at age 50 to become a chiropodist, a job he did until he retired.

After losing Shirley, John immersed himself in community and charity work, becoming an active member of several groups, clubs and charities as well volunteering at the local hospice.

John was an avid supporter of DRWF and always said he was proud to be part of our family. The feeling was mutual.

He also pursued his love of singing and was an active choir member in his church and the Chorley Choral Society. He was a reader in church and even completed a course to allow ‘lay people’ to give Holy Communion in the community. He was particularly proud of this as he had the blessing of the Bishop. He fulfilled all these roles with vigour.

John with his wife Shirley

John loved music, TV, and films, particularly his favourite Andre Rieu, who he would play at full volume. He was a lifelong lover of books too, both for knowledge and pleasure. John could always be found reading in the lounge at the Diabetes Wellness Weekends in between the busy schedule of talks and workshops.

It goes without saying that we will always be grateful to John for his support, his company, and his friendship over the years. He will be greatly missed. If, and when, we resurrect the Diabetes Wellness Weekends, I have a feeling we might need to learn some of his monologues to keep his tradition going.

Finally, I will leave you with a few of John’s own words, as written in a last letter to his family. I think you will agree, these words have significant meaning in these unprecedented times of uncertainty. They certainly sum up the man he was and the man we were lucky enough know.

It is good to have ambition and pride in accomplishment, and although I haven’t set the World on fire, at least I may leave it with a bit more than when I entered it. God bless you all and be happy. Continue to look after each other and give a little prayer, sometimes in recognition, that although life is hard, it also brings many blessings. Love one another always.

Call to action - How you can support DRWF during this time

Sarah Tutton, Chief Executive of DRWF, said: “Research is the only way to find new treatments and a cure for diabetes. We have multi-year grant awards in place right now which we must do our utmost to honour and we must be able to react to ongoing applications that we receive for research work that could truly make a difference to the lives of people with diabetes. 

“We exist on voluntary donations and fundraised income and like most charities, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our ability to raise the funds we need. We expect the months ahead will be just as challenging, and sadly this may have an impact on our ability to fund the volume and value of research work that could fuel the next big breakthrough.

“Charities need us, as we need them, more than ever before. Our supporters enable us to keep our research funding on track meaning that the diabetes research community has funds available to find the cure that could transform the lives of millions. We can’t thank our supporters enough for their continued support during these challenging times.”

Read Lockdown guidance for staying home and safe for people living with diabetes during Covid-19 pandemic
Read How people with diabetes could become more ill if diagnosed with Covid-19
DRWF operations during the Covid-19 health crisis

The DRWF team is working remotely. Covid-19 guidance, particularly where it aligns or impacts with diabetes guidance, is shared as quickly as possible through the DRWF website and social media channels with the aim of making it as easy to understand as possible and a reliable source of latest news.

Further reports to follow – visit DRWF news page
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