Obituary Michael John Chandler

Mike (19/05/1947 – 26/12/2018) was born in London. Only a few years later his family moved to Petts Wood, and his father then commuted into Central London. To coincide with that move, Mike’s maternal Grandmother, by then a widow, moved to the same street in Petts Wood. Mike had very fond & treasured memories of “Granny” looking after him & taking him as a small boy, when his brother was born, for walks in those woods, spinning stories about the trees and the creatures, real & imaginary.

His childhood was happy and he went to good local schools. He often talked about his bicycles and the adventures he created cycling far and wide as he grew older.

His secondary education was at Blundell’s School in Tiverton in Devon, boarding at Petergate House, where he was a good scholar and an excellent Cross-Country Runner, competing for the school. He also was a successful competitor in Rifle Shooting for the school, including competitions at the National Shooting Range at Bisley.

After school and A Levels, he secured a place at Manchester University to read Civil Engineering. He deferred taking up the place for a year, which he used to work in industry for the experience and also to earn enough money to buy his first car, a Ford Popular. When at Uni, he used to take his mates out on Saturday nights on pub-crawls, and he always drove them home to digs on the strength of “it was much safer for us to drive back rather than walk as we’d had so much to drink”. Pre-breathalyser days!

In the years after Uni he started work down on the South Coast, “setting out” on the construction of the new Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. He also met at around this time the person who was to become his first wife, Angela.

Mike later worked for Balfour Beatty, accepting a 3-year secondment to work in Swaziland, in southern Africa, on infrastructure projects. He and Angela really enjoyed the life there, and they were able to travel to a number of the southern countries of Africa. Returning to London from Africa, they took a tourist airline ticket which took them in hops to Peru, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Montreal for 10 days of the Olympic Games, then Washington DC before London and home. He talked often and with fondness of that amazing journey, and the wider perspective it gave him of the world.

Back in the UK Mike decided to do a Master’s Degree. He and Angela moved to Loughborough where he studied computer programming for technical applications, whilst she worked as Secretary to a Professor.

After Loughborough, he worked for companies in emerging services as computing power gained greater importance, and found his feet in selling services business to business, which he enjoyed hugely and which enabled him to travel the world on business. His natural interest in people and his bonhomie made selling easy. Living in Pimlico, central London was a bonus. Sadly, after a few years, the need for his skills were not so greatly needed as computing systems became smaller and more accessible to technical companies, and he was “let go” in a general down-sizing of staff. He accepted a job in Knutsford, so he took digs and commuted during the week, returning home at weekends.

The job lasted a day shorter than a year, and he was let go. Mike took stock and decided to turn self-employed, selling Business to Business. Cheshire was an ideal centre from which to travel around technical companies, and he didn’t look backwards. He was highly successful! He stayed put in South Cheshire as it is so accessible for the technical industries, renting a small house in Shavington. A sad consequence of this, after a few years, was divorce.

Mike joined the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce, becoming a member of its Bank of England Advisory Panel and a regular at their networking meetings.

One of Mike’s networking trips included attending a 2-day engineering conference in Exeter, at the University Campus. Here he met Di who was one of the first day’s speakers. They started to meet up the following year for occasional outings to the theatre or visits to Galleries. It was several years before they talked of setting up home together. Di finally sold her Hertfordshire house and she and Mike bought the Colleys Lane house, where they have been very happy. As Mike always said it was Di’s half cash, his half mortgage! Di turned self-employed in order to make the move from Hertfordshire, and it was Mike’s coaching which helped her to be successful. And their growing circle of friends have been a great source of fun and pleasure, including the local Nantwich Theatre Players.

Mike’s commitment to Public Service was a reflection of his parent’s approach to life. He gave 9¼ years as a Non-Executive Director of our local Leighton Hospital, and helped in the earlier years to strengthen the governance of the Trust. He felt that it was the most important role he undertook aside from being adoring Grandfather to Robyn, Niall, Tabitha and Poppy and stepfather to Di’s children Lisa and Phill. He loved being with his Niece Maya and her Partner Alex, Nephew Christopher, his wife Celia and their little one, India.

In early 2002 Mike was contacted about a dormant charity which his Uncle Doug had formed, “Environment Africa Trust” (EAT). After Doug’s death, Mike had salvaged the Trust’s records. This was the start of 15 years of work to use the Trust as a funding partner for an innovative sustainability project for the natural forests of sub-Saharan Africa. EAT became the funding mechanism for 4 successive grants from Comic Relief, totalling some £4M, to the Tanzanian Project. In 2014 Mike & Di visited the project, which supports some of the very poorest villages, to manage sustainably with a Forest Sustainability Certificate (FSC) their natural forests and generate an income from LEGAL logging.

A crazy project which Mike & Di undertook with artist friend David Jewkes and the technical expertise of neighbour Stephen Topliss, created the “Crewe Jigsaw”. This was sponsored by local businesses and organisations, all “recruited” by Mike, and installed a massive 75 piece steel Jigsaw puzzle on Crewe Railway Station, which was unveiled by our much missed former MP, Gwyneth Dunwoody. The original designs were created by local secondary school pupils from across Crewe & Nantwich and then painted on the pieces by David. It remained there for 10 years.

Rifle shooting was one of several themes throughout his life: after gaining full colours for shooting for Blundell’s, he gained his full colours shooting for Manchester University, and he shot for Swaziland in the Commonwealth Competition, gaining full colours, when he lived there for 3 years. As a mature person he shot at Bisley with the Blundell’s Veterans, and for Cheshire County. Mike supported Di to learn to shoot, and on moving to Cheshire she joined him as a member of the Crewe Rifle & Pistol Club. When Mike no longer had the strength to shoot safely he relinquished his rifles to the Crewe Club so that they could be used to teach young members without their own rifles.

Another passion of his was for his beloved Classic Car, a Sunbeam Talbot 90 Mk3S, a very quick car indeed for an old saloon car of dubious aerodynamic qualities compared to modern cars. Di remembers (with horror!) his driving them round the racetrack at Silverstone for 2 laps as the conclusion of a countryside rally. He drove at full throttle, including round the banked 180-degree bend!

On New Year’s Day 2015, Mike and Di decided that it was about time that they were married, and they booked an October wedding. That summer, Mike had a shock diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease. They decided that it was a good thing that wedding plans were well advanced. It turned out to be a lovely day at Willington Hall Hotel, with close family and 2 very close friends present. He was thrilled that he had now officially gained step-children and 4 Grandchildren. The following Saturday Mike & Di gave an afternoon tea-party for 40 local friends at Crewe Hall, where they announced what they had done the previous Saturday. Their friends were delighted!

Sadly, as Motor Neurone Disease took its toll, he found it increasingly difficult to drive his Sunbeam. He was not strong enough to drive it anymore this last year (Di has never been strong enough to cope with it at slow speeds), and he decided to sell it. A Club Member came forward who was very keen to buy, and Mike waved the car goodbye, very sad but glad that the car would be looked after and used.

Mike was determined to contribute to research into MND and on the advice of his consultant, volunteered to Sheffield University Teaching Hospital’s Research Programme. This involved frequent visits there for a day at a time. He stuck to it for the 15 months of the programme, but the final months he found extremely exhausting.

The final stage of his life was increasingly debilitating but he bore it all calmly and without complaint. His final hours, in the hospital he was so committed to, were calm and peaceful.

Di has received his tributes from friends and former colleagues alike. She has received over 70 cards and 20 letters, with everyone saying what a warm and lovely man he was. There were over 100 people at his Memorial Service. He is much missed by all who knew him.

Di Davy-Chandler