Thursday, April 09, 2009

Farewell to my brother Keith.

My elder brother, Group Captain Keith Thurman AFZ (Ret'd) (71) died on Saturday, 28th March 2009 in Harari, Zimbabwe at the home of his daughter after a long battle with cancer. A Memorial Service was held at 69 Piers Road, Borrowdale, on Thursday 2 April, 2009.

Keith was born on 26th April 1938 in Billesdon, Leicestershire to Ronald and Muriel Thurman. With the outbreak of war our father, who was a Chief Engineering Officer in the Royal Navy was posted overseas and he and mother moved in with her father, the Late George Whitlock JP , Asfordby Councillor, and mother, the Late Emma Whitlock in Asfordby Hill, Melton Mowbray, also in Leicestershire. The family stayed in Asfordby until after the war and I was born there in 1942. In 1948, following the floods of winter of 1947, the family emigrated to what was then Southern Rhodesia, with the encouragement of the Commonwealth Settlement Scheme.

Keith was to spend the next 40 years living in Rhodesia, initially on a tobacco estate and then for some years in the small Midlands town of Gatooma. It was in Gatooma that our brother, Malcolm was born. The Motto of our school ~ Jameson School of Gatooma Named after Cecil John Rhodes confidante - Leander Starr Jameson ~ was Sine Metu ~ a motto that Keith always lived by. It means Without Fear.

At the age of 14 he started a Boy Scout Group, and later on the Troop was invited to provide guards for the aircraft of the Southern Rhodesian Auxiliary Air Force when they visited the town. This early link with the Air Force motivated him to join up and in 1957 he attested as an Aircraftsman in the Equipment Branch. By steadfastly applying his leadership qualities and his stubborn perseverance he worked his way through the ranks until eventually he headed the Branch as a Group Captain.

The Royal Rhodesian Air Force, as a part of its Commonwealth Defence Commitment sent forces to Malaya, Cyprus and Aden. Keith served in Cyprus and Aden. Following the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland he remained in Rhodesia, rather than transfer to Zambia. With the advent of the Rhodesian Bush War following Rhodesia's declaration of Independence the Air Force became the Rhodesian Air Force and he elected to continue serving. As time went by he was selected to head up the procurement team of the Force and travelled to many countries circumventing UN Sanctions that had been imposed on the country. After the country became Zimbabwe such was his record of integrity that he was able to continue serving the Air Force of Zimbabwe. Even today the work he carried out on behalf of the Air Force and all Rhodesians remains a secret. It is probably a story that will never be told now.

Keith leaves a son, Rohn and daughter, Kim from his first marriage to Susan and a grand-daughter, Erin; Kim and her family still live in Zimbabwe; Rohn lives in England. He married Manuela some years ago and spent the last years of his life with her in South Africa prior to returning to Zimbabwe a few months ago. His brothers Mal and I both live in England.

As he has many relatives in Leicestershire and surrounding counties and many colleagues who have returned to the United Kingdom, a Memorial Service will be held at All Saints Church, Asfordby, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, the Church where his parents were married and where he was Christened on a date to be announced.

Although his passing leaves a void in the lives of those who knew him, at the same time everyone who served with him as well as his family, are able to celebrate his life and are better off for having shared their lives with him.

You can shed tears that he has gone
or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he’s gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what he’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Rest in Peace Keith

Anon ~ Sincere thanks to Don Gregory for these words.

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