It was December 2011 when Peter first offered his services as a volunteer for Emmaus Leeds, and over the following 12 years he became an integral, much-loved member of the Community. Before long he was volunteering two full days a week in the sorting room and was often the first person any new volunteers or companions spent time with when they joined. His sense of fun and welcoming nature put everyone at ease; he got on with people of all ages and backgrounds and never judged or criticised.
Young people were always amazed when Peter told them his age, as he had such a modern outlook on life. Volunteering set him on the road to Peru! He travelled there to be a guest of a student from France who volunteered with us one summer – Valentin. He also visited another student, Louis, in France and became ‘Uncle Peter’ to Louis’ family. He was very proud of this title. Both Valentin and Louis became lifelong friends to Peter, and he loved hearing from them about their careers and families.
Peter was a sociable person, who liked nothing more than a good night out, either for a meal or a trip to the theatre or opera, and he was a great storyteller with lots of tales about his youth and the years he spent living in South Africa in the sixties. It was a measure of his personality that he returned from South Africa, where he was living the good life, because he was so unhappy that apartheid existed there.
Peter was a Leeds lad, although you wouldn’t know it to hear him speak. He wanted to become an actor in his youth so had elocution lessons which left him speaking beautifully. It made us laugh though when, after an extra glass of wine or two, his Armley accent would slip out!
We were honoured to join in celebrating his 80th birthday with him, and he was very moved when we presented him with a cake (he couldn’t get over the fact it had his face on it!) and gifts.
Peter always said he got a lot out of volunteering with Emmaus Leeds – he said meeting new, young people kept him young and he recommended it to everyone he knew. It is difficult to say how much he will be missed as he was such a character and also very hard working, but more than that he was a friend who added something positive to the lives of everyone he met.
We all have different memories of him – some remember him sleeping through and getting ready to come in at 7.30 in the evening as he thought it was morning! It took him a long time to live that one down. Others talk about him putting 50p on everything, and he would put it on himself if he stood still too long. Companions remember his kindness and patience, and one said she will always remember him making her smile when she was working with him – you can see why!
He was very excited to be featured in the Yorkshire Evening Post, interviewed for his longevity and still volunteering 2 days a week. He was quoted as saying “just because you are retired, you are not on the scrap heap. It is hard to imagine not coming here now. I particularly enjoy the companionship. It is wonderful as you are around people from all different backgrounds”.
Mondays and Fridays will be duller without him – he was inspirational and irreplaceable. Rest in peace Peter and thank you for all that you gave to Emmaus Leeds.