Thank you all for coming.... some of you have made very long journeys. I know how humbled and moved David would be by that.
Many diverse chapters made up David’s life. The final product...... the David I met 18 years ago was compassionate, culturally aware,
clever, intolerant of arrogance, wise and calm, an excellent judge of character, inscrutable and kind .
In his retirement he brought all these qualities to the table through his voluntary and charitable activities and in his personal life.
At age 8 David moved to Hertford where his father was appointed headmaster of the largest Dr, Barnardo’s
boarding school in the country. David’s playmates were 150 highly disadvantaged, highly mischievous
and emotionally deprived boys aged 13 to 16.
They were doing vocational training at the William Baker Technical School in the 100 acre grounds of
the magnificient Goldings Manor.
So every sport was available to him and the boys.....as was every mischief!
Most of the boys had had traumatic childhoods and some were quasi-feral...... As the headmaster’s son
David became a bit of a
gangster’s moll.... covering up the Goldings’ boys’ crimes... he remembers that at the end of school
outings David’s father would stand BY THE BUS with a huge bag ordering them to give back the
items they’d stolen from local shops....mostly Brylcreem and combs.
David was in his element! But he also observed the dedication his father ( a man he greatly admired)
gave to those boys........... he learnt that firm fairness and a non-judgemental attitude was the kindest
way to give disaffected youngsters the best start in life.
His sister Celia was not so happy. She quite quickly tired of the boys climbing the water tower opposite the headmaster’s bathroom
in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of her naked!!
Every year, now the Goldings boys hold a reunion and it was a huge honour for David to represent his father at these gatherings and
to see how well they have done and how fond they are of each other. He was very proud of them.
He has asked for his ashes scattered on the old cricket ground there. We may have to devise a “Great Escape” strategy.
David FRANKLIN Wheatley....there’s a clue in the name. David’s father greatly admired President Franklin Roosevelt who
famously said “Men are not prisoners of fate but prisoners of their own minds.”
David was destined to find his way to America. And so in 1955 he took a Greyhound Bus to Portland, the City of Roses, in Oregan.
There he spent a happy year at Franklin High School as an exchange student and made life-long American friends. Some still keep in
touch today and their American hospitality and warmth are a credit to their country.
He valued the importance of seeing the world from other cultural perspectives and ran his own US exchange programmes for which
he was later awarded the Freedom of the City of Oregon.
He received the offer of 8 scholarships and chose to read law at Queen’s College, Cambridge.
Upon graduation he became a Shell trainee and by the age of 23 he was in Borneo in charge of ex-pat supplies and also the medical
and welfare programme for the native Dayaks (notorious headhunters) .
INTOLERANCE OF ARROGANCE
One of his jobs was to oversee the vaccination programmes and also issue brassieres to the native women, with the strict instruction
to never appear topless in front of a white man.
This edict, in itself, is a metaphor packed with irony and this was not lost on David. Even today he feels the British myth of our
cultural superiority is to the detriment of us as a nation.
EMPATHIC, WISE AND CALM
As Shell’s lead HR man in Nigeria David found himself mediating between the trade unions. One time the local shop steward
challenged him to a game of table tennis to settle a strike..... David had a half-blue from Cambridge..... he absolutely thwacked him!!!!!.....
there was much laughter that the dispute was settled with a game of ping-pong!
EXCELLENT JUDGE OF CHARACTER.
David had developed the insight and empathy to get on well with diverse cultures. He was the last Shell man to leave Nigeria during
the Biafran Civil war....and managed to get all his employees out safely.
One of the great highlights of David’s career was to lead the Nigerian Scholarship programme. He toured Nigerian colleges looking
for young undergraduates he sensed had the potential to succeed. In the end he recruited over 60
What a delight it was when one of these students, Ekwere Peters, now a Senior Professor Emeritus of Petroleum Engingeering at
the University of Texas, traced David via his step-son Dan’s charity website. David learnt that all his recruits have done well.....
Heads of Petroleum Companies, Professors, Research Scholars etc., and they call themselves “The Wheatley Babes”.
Many have written to me with tributes..:
“I thank David for transforming my life... He went beyond the call of duty offering us mentoring, friendship and caring.” - Ben Aghazu.
“We all benefitted from his caring and reassuring nature.” - Egbert Imomoh
“He loved and made a huge impact on us Shell scholars” – David Abebola Balogun.
“We are grateful for the remembrance of him. He was a very discerning man.” – Dozie Okonkwo.
“David left a lasting impression on those of us who benefitted from him.” -Emmanuel Nnebocha.
It is delightful to have William Adelekan and his wife Jane here with us today.
In the Far East David was Shell’s Head of HR International but that did not stop him “going native” and enjoying the company of
other cultures. He played poker with the Chinese ..but never won. Eventually he asked them what he was doing wrong....... “David,
when you have a good hand you cough” they said, but..... they didn’t tell him that until he was leaving.
This explains his poker face.....AND his gambling addiction. In fact I was thinking of inviting Corals the bookmakers to the funeral......
certainly their shares must have taken a tumble. But whether his horse was winning or losing you could NEVER tell by his expression.
How handy that must have been during corporate negotiations and mediations.
EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS ABROAD
After 22 years of living and working over much of the world David took early retirement and helped found the cultural awareness
consultancy, Employment Conditions Abroad.
He wisely perceived that in an increasingly global world of business and commerce a professional awareness of the customs and
values of other cultures was vital to obtaining and maintaining international business.
This move consolidated all the experiences, burnt fingers and knowledge that David had acquired in his overseas work with Shell.
He became a leading expert and consultant in advising businesses how to adapt to the diverse ways of overseas corporations.
One of his colleagues, Don Mackinley, wrote: “I looked up to David as a friendly, wise person whose views were well-measured,
had practical value and were imbued with astuteness... He gave us the benefit of the wisdom of his experience and the chance to
make mistakes without condemnation or judgement.”
Once retired David gave back to society as best he knew how.... through kindness and voluntary work.
As Raold Dahl said: “I think probably kindness is my Number One attribute in a human being. It covers everything to my mind....
If you’re kind that’s it.
David used his excellent judge of character and his equanimity to good effect as a magistrate and then Deputy Chairman.
Peter Renshaw, a fellow JP, writes: “It was a great privilege to be a colleague of David’s on the influential Magistrates’ Courts
Committee. He was a man who cared about people more than anything else... a great man indeed.”
And another fellow JP, Ros Grimes says: “We appreciated the depth and complexity of his character...his insights on human nature
were a great asset to the justice system.......But....... what sticks in my mind most is the purple shirt he wore on your wedding day!”
David pursued his passion for helping young people as HR adviser to Godalming College. Former principal David Adelman said of him:
“As a governor he was an excellent and devoted steward of the college.”
Hugh Pike, then chairman, says: “I found him charming, positive, thoughtful and utterly trustworthy. It was in the give and take of
Corporate meetings that I found his contributions most wise and valuable. Godalming College owes him a considerable debt.”
David also chaired two local charities.... but more of that later.
On a more personal note.... I met David through a dear friend who contrived our first date. ...she WOULD BE HERE TODAY BUT
SHE has since moved to Vancouver Island.....................probably to escape his anger!!!
What could we possibly have in common?
Well we had both been bombed, shot at and forced to leave a country. In Port Harcourt he was reading articles I had written in
Johannesburg. In 1977 he met my then husband John in Abu Dhabi..... obviously our union was a destiny just waiting to happen
(although he did ask John later why he didn’t warn him!)
On our third date he told me his life was at a turning point; he was in a gloomy rut! He told me I had his permission to get him
out of it!
Ah Ha! What an invitation! WOMEN LOVE CHANGING MEN!!!!!!!
But what could I teach this dignified man who possessed such wisdom and gravitas? Well, ....... our family philosophy is to throw
love, light, humour and kindness at life. At a sublime level I was his Tigger and he was my Eeyore. My glass was half full, his half
empty. So I set about lightening up dear David.
I had observed that he was a real romantic..... a shy man who loved rescuing damsels in distress. In fact, I sometimes pretended to
be in distress just for that frisson of excitement when David’s cavalry came rushing over the hill. His favourite song, “If I Loved You”
is so typical of him.
Was I successful in lighting up David’s life???? Did Osmosis occur?
This is what he wrote in his last birthday card to me:
“My Very Dear Carolyn, The word amazing has many dictionary definitions, including surprising, bewildering, impressive,
dazzling, unusual, admirable, disconcerting and awe-inspiring. All of which I experience on a fairly regular basis as the years go
by..... but definitely worth it!”
I suspect David just appreciated my enthusiastic attempts whilst wryly watching me try.......... he was always the astute observer!
David was wise. He has left me with two pieces of valuable advice; Firstly, never give people information they can use against you
(I fear it’s too late for that) and secondly....people only change when they are put into their discomfort zone.
One of his great regrets was that he did not see enough of his children Fiona and Andrew because the ex-pat life meant they were at
boarding school. But he is immensely proud of them, their independence and their beautiful families. And he has been kindness itself
to my children and grandchildren. Aiden calls him his “fourth pillar of wisdom”.
DEATH AND THE UNIVERSE IN GENERAL
We discussed death a lot..... we were well practised.... Dan had been resuscitated four times but he then revived unaided after his fifth
cardiac arrest. I had a bash at it whilst horse-riding in the Tunisian desert. Andy and Clare lost darling Ned, twin to Arthur and younger
brother to Alice.
We have done a lot of research and concluded .............that there is a huge body of evidence to suggest consciousness survives death.
....That nothing in the universe dies, it merely transforms. I believe David is happy in spirit. It’s just a belief..... but inevitably if
consciousness has energy our thoughts must have some dynamic effect, as Roosevelt so wisely intimated.
And so........the answer to that tantalising, timeless question: “ Is there Life after Death? “ is actually OURS to decide.
As Henry Ford said: “If you think there is.... there is. If you think there isn’t .... there isn’t. Either way you are right!”
But of course, we who are left behind are still devastated at our loss of dear David. He made such a positive difference and
leaves a huge vacuum.
We are sad beyond belief at the suddenness of his death. We miss him terribly and will always be grateful for the kind, loving
way he touched all of our lives. David was our wise mentor and our rock and we loved him dearly.
Carolyn Wheatley, January 22nd, 2020.