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12 July 2013

The Ven. David Garnett writes:

THE Revd John Slyfield, who died on 18 June, aged 81, was blessed with great humour, humanity, and spirituality, but was also very practical, and liked to get things done yesterday.

I first met him in 1996, when we moved to Taddington in North Derbyshire. He called to ask whether there was anything that he could do to help us as we unpacked, and brought with him hot drinks and cakes. He had retired as Vicar of Tideswell in 1992, to nurse and care for his first wife, Barbara (Bar), with great devotion, living in a bungalow in Taddington with spectacular views over the Derbyshire countryside.

Thus began a friendship that lasted until his death. Two days before, I anointed him and gave him holy communion in Ashgate Hospice. Over the years, we had talked, joked, walked, and said the daily Office together. He was very supportive of my ministry as an archdeacon.

John was ordained in 1968, and served as an assistant curate of St Mary in the Marsh; Rector of the Claydons, Buckinghamshire, and Rural Dean; Vicar of Westoe, Durham; Vicar of Tideswell from 1982; and Rural Dean of Buxton.

For many years, he was a spiritual director, and chaired the Derby Diocesan Spirituality Group. From 1995 to 2002, he was diocesan spiritual director, and acted as a kind of broker, finding the right spiritual director for each individual. People were greatly helped by John's wisdom.

John and Bar had three children, Vivien, Tim, and David. Bar died in 2000, and Tim died in a traffic accident in 2006. John was devoted to them, and to his seven grandchildren.

In 2002, John married Margaret, whose late husband, Stephen Elkington, had been a cleric. The same year, John became Priest-in-Charge of Beeley and Edensor. John and Margaret had 11 happy years together, making frequent visits to Margaret's former home in South Africa.

John was a good cook, very hospitable and sociable. He was hugely supportive of our son during and after an operation for acromegaly. They planted daffodil bulbs together. There was often a handwritten card or letter, especially at times of crisis or celebration.

In his last letter to me, he wrote that he had terminal cancer of the oesophagus. "I find myself quite content to accept the prognosis. I think it may be harder for family and friends . . . We spent a glorious Easter with Vivien at Ashbourne. It was very exciting driving through the banks of snow six feet deep. It never ceases to delight me to discover masses of snowdrops in bloom under the melting snow. . .

"It is hard to imagine that a week ago we were walking within sight of the Indian Ocean to a chorus of glossy blue starlings, drongoes, and hornbills tapping on the open win- dows for bits of cheese. What wonderful worlds!"

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