HE was a true gentleman whose wit and kindness won him an army of friends.
John Withers, a man known to some as ‘Mr Denmead’, was hugely popular in the Waterlooville area and that was evident yesterday as more than 300 people turned out to celebrate his life.
Tears and laughter filled All Saints Church in Denmead as family and friends read out poignant tributes to Mr Withers, who died earlier this month at the age of 88.
Mr Withers was well-known as he ran Denmead’s former village shop, Restall’s, for 24 years before setting up a successful wine merchants.
He was formerly president and captain of Waterlooville Golf Club, where he had won a number of trophies.
As the service began, the Rev Sandra Edwards read a message from John himself.
‘No-one is to be sad today,’ it read. Mr Withers’ daughter, Paula Hayward, read a poem which included the words ‘Think of me and smile’.
Graham Withers, his son, told the congregation: ‘He loved sport, particularly Havant & Waterlooville and Pompey. Although he did not often get to matches, he listened to them on the radio and was always keen to talk about them.’
He said his father’s biggest passion was his family, his wife Barbara, and his three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He added: ‘Dad was Mr Denmead. He loved this village and its people.’
Graham said his father was proud of his army career in the Signals regiment.
He said the biggest tribute anyone could pay was the huge turnout of people who filled every seat in the church.
Graham added: ‘He’s still working his magic and making us feel better and that’s a formidable legacy.
‘As he would have said, “You are absolutely brilliant”.’
Fellow golfer and former business colleague Alan Borrow said: ‘He had a particular gift that endeared him to the club’s members.
‘Not only was he good company, but he could tell a good joke.
‘He was the natural choice for MC at club functions.’
He added: ‘He loved to reminisce about his many wine travels in years gone by.’
Graham said his dad’s kind spirit was summed up in his final days at Queen Alexandra Hospital when, after a long day, he insisted on speaking to a fellow patient who was alone and had had no visitors.
Donations were made at the service in aid to The Rowans Hospice. There is also a donations page at justgiving.com/johnwithers/