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Tributes paid to a 'popular' retired verger at St Paul's Finchley
Hundreds of people are expected to turn out to pay their respects to a “popular man” who was a verger at a Finchley church for 45 years.
The family of Ralph Straker has organised two memorials to commemorate the grandfather-of-two who died of Parkinson’s disease on Saturday, October 12 at the age of 77.
Mr Straker was born in Barbados and moved to London in 1956 when he was 21-years-old to get a job as a bus conductor based in Finchley.
He met his wife Monica in the late 1950s when she boarded his bus, and after dating for a while the pair were married at Christ Church in North Finchley.
Mrs Straker, 74, who was also born in Barbados, said: “He was a lovely, loving husband and we’d been married for a long time – we were getting ready to celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary.”
The pair would have celebrated on Tuesday November 5 – the same day Mr Straker’s memorial will be held in Finchley.
Daughter Jean Straker, 48, said: “We’d originally planned to do something as a family together so at least we can all be together and do something to honour him.
“He was a loveable, family man who did a lot for the community as well as his family.
“He would make friends wherever he went and he’s met a lot of important people including Desmund Tutu, Muhammad Ali and Cliff Richard. He was a very popular man.”
After being a bus conductor Mr Straker went on to work for the Race Relations Commission in the Diocese of Southwark, he served as a Justice of the Peace in North Westminster and became verger at St Paul's Finchley in Long Lane in 1966 where he stayed for 45 years before retiring.
In 2002 he was appointed OBE in the New Year Honours List for services to community relations and he received a St Mellitus Medal in 2011 which is awarded in recognition of substantial contribution to the Christian life of London.
He leaves behind his wife and their three daughters Carol Straker, 52, Diana Straker, 50, and Jean Straker, 48, as well as two granddaughters.
A memorial will be held at St Paul’s on Tuesday November 5 at 3pm and another will be held in Hackney.
Family members will then fly to Barbados where Mr Straker will be buried.
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