Obituary - Leonard Gill
On 20th March 2006, Webmaster received an e-mail from Kaye (Len's wife) giving the sad news that Len had passed
away on 13th March 2006.
"My best friend is no longer with me. Len died on Monday, 13 March. He went so soon and
because of VERY heavy pain-killers, there was no apparent pain. I know I should be grateful
that neither Len nor myself had to experience the agony of a long and drawn out death but
I miss him so very much. Looking back on nearly ten years we shared a miracle of never
having had a fight - a difference in view-points, but few of those. Soul-mates in the
true sense of the word.
(Webmaster's note: Len had been suffering from cancer of the lower back, diagnosed just
Extract from an obituary notice for Leonard John Gill, December 20, 1930 - March 13, 2006, which appeared in the ‘Post
Independent’, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, on April 9, 2006
Glenwood Springs author Leonard Gill passed away March 13 at his home. He was 75.
There will be a celebration of his life from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the 19th Street Diner, 1908 Grand Ave., in Glenwood Springs.
Cremation has taken place.
Leonard was born Dec. 20, 1930, in Nairobi, Kenya, British East Africa, to Harold Warren and Molly Elizabeth (Chambers) Gill. He attended Prince of Wales high school in Nairobi and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
He is survived by his wife Kaye McKenzie, whom he married on Sept. 27, 1996. He was also married to Doris Davis and Patricia Pleice.
Leonard is also survived by his son D. John Gill, of Alford, Surrey, United Kingdom; daughter, Julie Gill of Nairobi; stepson Brian Zarn of Orange Park, Fla.; sister Elizabeth Millborrow of Wales, United Kingdom; five grandchildren: Nina, 18, Oriana 15, Steven, 13, Danielle, 17, and Sarah, 11; as well as many special friends in the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Africa.
In his later years, Leonard wrote about his experiences growing up in Kenya and serving in the military during the Mau Mau rebellion.
Leonard's childhood followed the lines of many small boys, getting into mischief and learning the ways of the world, but against the exotic backdrop of colonial East Africa.
In 1950, Leonard returned from college in Ireland and went to work. The following year, the militant anti-British organization, the Mau Mau, launched a campaign against its political enemies. Leonard joined the Kenyan Police Reserve and within the year joined the Kenya Regiment. After completing his training he was assigned to the Kings African Rifles in 1953.
Besides having to deal with the guerrilla tactics of his Mau Mau adversaries, Leonard also had to tackle extra-military situations such as poison arrows, charging rhinos and marauding elephants.
He served three years of active service, during which he spoke "kiswahili" almost exclusively, and then returned to his job with an import/export firm in Nairobi.
After the country declared independence from British rule in 1963, Leonard remained in Kenya and worked as a mechanical engineer, married and raised two children. In 1989 Leonard took early retirement at 57 and moved to Britain.
He married Kaye McKenzie in 1996 and moved to Glenwood Springs. There, at Kaye's urging, he began writing his memoirs. He published five books: "Rambunctious Reflections," "Rollicking Recollections," "Military Musings," "More Military Musings," and "Remembering the Regiment."
Memorial contributions may be made to the Leonard J. Gill Memorial account at any Alpine Bank to endow sets of his books to libraries, hospitals and schools.
The following was Len's entry in the Alumni section of this web site prior to his death:
Born Nairobi 20th Dec 1930|
Author and retired business executive, living in Colorado, USA.
The Prince of Wales School, originally Nairobi School, was to provide the UK curriculum for the sons of British settlers. Those who could afford it, sent their precious off-spring to schools in the UK, the government schools in Kenya being regarded as second rate. This was probably an unfair assessment by those who wanted to rid themselves of the drudge of disciplining their rebellious issue. British schools were claimed to do more than educate. They allegedly imparted a polish and the manners of those considered to be officers and gentlemen. Herr Hitler put a stop to this practice with his U-boats, and apart from a few who were sent to schools in South Africa, the rest of us had to suffer the exigencies of the PoW.
During WWII able-bodied teachers were called up for military service. They were replaced by men and women who may have had the knowledge of the subjects they were to teach, but were unable to control a bunch of recalcitrant thugs. Consequently, our education fell short of what our parents paid for.
The professional teachers who were not drafted into the services were excellent, and over and above compelling us to absorb a smattering of their subject, they also managed to impart a sense of morality and integrity to some of us.
In my dotage, I have become an author, writing about relatives, friends and acquaintances. My life and the adventures I had have found popularity here in the United States, where I now live, in my books Rambunctious Reflections,ISBN 155395107-7, and Rollicking Recollections, ISBN 155395655-9. The first book covers the first ten years of my life and the second covers the period from when I was about eleven to the age of twenty-two. (Other books will follow).
One of the temporary teachers who came to the PoW was one we named Chafu Johnson. The following is an excerpt from Rollicking Recollections, which may serve to inform your members of something of the period when I was a recalcitrant PoW school boy:
A totally inadequate teacher was Chafu (dirty) Johnson. Everything about him was dirty, from his clothing to his pasty white face. A small man, his clothes hung on him like a scarecrow. His oversized trousers were held up with a knotted tie and drooped to his shoes in folds. He reeked malodorously. He was a musician, and briefly our Choir Master. Standing on a stage, his feet precisely together, the toes of his shoes turned up, he conducted us by waving wildly with his arms. His choice of song was from Shakespeare:
Under the greenwood tree
To expect a mob of teen-aged louts to be enthusiastic over such a sonnet was asking too much. We were excited by the first couplet, thinking that Shakespeare was introducing a passionate, possibly pornographic, love scene. We were disappointed when the next lines turned it into an innocuous, insipid tableau. Boorish boredom.
Who loves to lie with me
And tune his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat.
Chafu had a four or five year-old son who helped the sanitary corps men to empty the buckets from the toilets of the lower members of the school staff - gardeners, grounds maintenance crews, cleaners and the like, who were housed on the school grounds, and had only primitive toilet facilities. The sanitary corps consisted of two men and an ox-drawn, two-wheeled cart carrying a steel tank into which the contents of the toilet buckets were slopped each day, for discharge into an underground cistern. It was a filthy job, and the fact that the Johnsons allowed their little boy to go round with the men, shocked us.
The family lived in a ground floor apartment beneath one of the dormitories. The apartment opened out onto a small formal garden which led onto a side-road that passed the main school building. Chafu always parked his car on the far side of this road, directly opposite his apartment. He parked it as far off the road as possible by putting two wheels in a shallow, open storm drain.
His car was a small, ancient, poorly maintained, Austin sedan. It was well on the way to becoming a derelict, and luxuries like door catches had long given up the ghost to be replaced by cheap door bolts. Anticipating his car's early demise, Chafu never put more than a gallon of fuel in the tank, so that the petrol sloshed around the bottom.
The lads in the dormitory above Chafu's apartment would, after he and his family had locked themselves away for the night, lower a cord to friends who had sneaked out of the dormitory to wait below. They attached the cord to the car door, and undid the door bolt. They then hurried back up to the dormitory, where the other end of the cord was tied to the dormitory's balcony railing. Any boy, who awoke during the night, went out onto the balcony and pulled the cord, thus opening the car door. Letting go of the cord allowed the car door to slam shut. Bang! Pull, let go. Bang! Pull, let go. Bang! And so on, until a light in Chafu's apartment was switched on, and the apartment door opened. Chafu's shadow, falling across the garden could be seen from above as he peered into the darkness. Of course, as soon as the light downstairs was switched on, the boy above discontinued pulling the cord. After a few minutes Chafu would go back to bed, and the light would be switched off. After a few minutes, the
banging of the car door would start again. On would come the light downstairs. Chafu never got to the bottom of this phenomenon.
Another little thing that was done to amuse Chafu, and distract him from his worldly worries, was the Coffee-Beans-in-the-Fuel-Tank Game. A handful of dry coffee beans in the always nearly-empty-tank, caused constant stoppages. Chafu played the organ every Sunday at a cathedral in town, some five miles from the school. To get to the cathedral was a down hill run almost all the way. Coming back was, of course, uphill all the way. Whenever Chafu put his foot hard down on the accelerator, petrol was drawn by the fuel pump from the tank to the carburetor. A coffee bean was sucked down to cover the exit from the gas tank to the pump, and would be kept there for as long as the motor demanded more fuel. The carburetor emptied, and fuel starvation caused the car to splutter to a stop. The coffee bean floated up, away from the exit from the gas tank. Chafu pressed the starter, and after a few moments, the carburetor filled again, the engine re-started, and the car would go another 400 yards before it again spluttered to a stop. The five mile journey from the cathedral back to school was done with about twenty stops. Chafu never got to the bottom of this problem either.
Chafu didn't last long at the PoW, and none of the other staff would take up residence in the apartment that he and his family vacated, as it stank so. Even after innumerable complete scrubbings, it took nine months to get rid of the stench.
I hope you find the excerpt of interest and amusing. Each of my books is a series of vignettes, each complete in itself. So, my books are ideal for the loo where an episode can be read without having to refer back to recall the situation. Several US readers have told me they are interrupted when members of their family want to know the cause of the guffaws emanating from the loo.
Rollicking Recollections has quite a bit about other PoW teachers. I don't mean to judge. I only report my perspective of the situation that existed at the time. I can supply copies of both my books at US$22.60 each including airmail postage.
Another story covers the problems I suffered because the Impala Club insisted on building loos, detached from the club house, directly opposite the house of the parents of a girl I had my evil eye on. The relationship was scuttled as a consequence.