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Remembering Arthur Checkley

Arthur and Margaret Checkley

“What can I say about Arthur? He was one of the good ones.”

Born in Birmingham in 1934, Arthur was the youngest son of Joseph and Anna Checkley. Joseph died when Arthur was young and, in 1944, he and his brothers came to stay at Father Hudson’s on a temporary basis while their mother had surgery. Although she made an initial recovery, she fell ill suddenly in December and died. At the time her brother wrote that her thoughts were always with her sons.

In Coleshill, Arthur lived in St Edward’s Home for Boys and attended the nearby school. He did well at school and was entrusted with tasks around the home and at school.

When he was fifteen, Arthur moved to the old St Vincent’s Home in Birmingham to learn a trade before being drafted for National Service at eighteen. He joined the Construction Regiment, first stationed in Blackdown, Sussex, and then Donnington in Shropshire. On his discharge in 1954 he sought work as a foundry storeman, having learned this work in the army. He progressed in his career, gaining respect and trust from colleagues and employers.

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In 1965, while holidaying in Austria, Arthur’s life changed again when he met Margaret, a Methodist minister from Essex. The pair fell in love and when they returned to England Arthur travelled from Birmingham to Essex every Friday to see her. They married in March 1967.

In 2000, with Margaret’s support, Arthur contacted Father Hudson’s Origins department, which supports people who lived in the former homes or who were affected by adoption through the society. They searched his records and provided him with copies of the letters, photographs and other documents that make up his history. Arthur and Margaret put these into a book which Margaret proudly keeps.

After living in their home for 46 years, Arthur and Margaret moved to St Joseph’s Care Home. Initially this was on a temporary basis but they decided to stay. Carmel Johnson, Liaison Manager at St Joseph’s Care Home, said, “I don’t think it could have been any better for them to be here where Arthur grew up and to be able to stay together. It was an ideal situation.”

Although they couldn’t share a room at St Joseph’s, because of their differing care needs, Arthur and Margaret spent much of their time together, taking part in activities at the home, spending time with their family or simply watching television together, enjoying each other’s company.

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During their fifty-one years of marriage, Arthur and Margaret raised two children and welcomed four grandchildren. Family was important to them both and photographs of their children and grandchildren adorn their bedrooms at St Joseph’s. During an interview in 2018, Arthur described his family as enriching his life.

On his return to the place where he grew up, Arthur was surprised to see that many of the old buildings were no longer there. He enjoyed reminiscing and telling staff about the history of the place, describing how they would put beds out on the terraces in the summer, or give jobs to each of the boys. Arthur was given the job of scrubbing the floors at weekends and dubbed himself the best scrubber.

Together with Margaret showing old photographs and letters from his book, Arthur enjoyed telling staff about holidays to Wales and Ireland, as well as how he enjoyed playing football and cricket against outside schools and taking part in theatre.

Sarah Burley, Assistant Manager at St Joseph’s, said, “We like to say he went full circle. He spoke very highly of Father Hudson’s Care and loved reminiscing about his past and his family. His faith was important to him and his daughter told me that one of the things he took from Father Hudson’s was to always give people a chance. So she had to save up some of her pocket money to help other people.”

Staff at St Joseph’s said Arthur was a pleasure to be around and what stood out was his and Margaret’s devotion to each other. Carmel said, “He loved his wife unconditionally. He loved talking about here and spending time with her. They adored each other and that shone through.”

Arthur passed away in November 2018 with his family at his side. His ashes have been scattered in the garden at St Joseph’s.

Carmel said, “He always said he had the best life. It seemed like he could take on anything.”

Arthur will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

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