LONGSTANDING horticulturalist and Milford community stalwart Michael Reed has died suddenly at the age of 82.
Well-known for his role in organising Milford and Keyhaven’s annual Remembrance services, Michael was a leading member of the village’s British Legion, a member of the Royal Hampshire Comrades Association, chairman of the Malaya and Borneo Veterans Association, and president of the Earl Mountbatten Memorial Branch.
Together, Michael, Sally and Countess Mountbatten inspected the Guard of Honour at the memorial service at Romsey Abbey on Sunday 8th September, just a week before he died.
Michael and his wife Sally own Manor Road Nurseries in Milford, where they grew tomatoes and other produce for many years.
Born on March 6th 1937 to parents Dorothy and Thomas Reed, Michael grew up in Romsey and had an older brother John and younger sister Jennifer. Early childhood memories included taking refuge in an air raid shelter in a neighbour’s garden as bombs rained down on Southampton during the Second World War.
Michael attended Bickleigh House School in Romsey but enjoyed being outdoors more than formal learning. He then progressed to St Nicholas School in Southampton where he enjoyed gardening, cricket, football, athletics and boxing.
He completed his education at Embley Park School in Romsey before starting his first job as an apprentice horticulturalist at A.R Wills of Romsey.
Michael cycled to work, undertaking the 20-mile round trip from his family’s home in Southampton, six days a week. After finishing work at lunchtime on a Saturday he played rugby in Southampton, and undertook athletics during the summer
After a number of years in the army cadets – which included attending the Coronation of the Queen in 1953 – Michael signed up to join the Royal Hampshire Regiment, based at Winchester, in 1955. He then served in Malaya and Singapore before returning to barracks in Oxford.
Michael left the Army shortly before his 21st birthday and returned to A.R Wills to train in a new technique of chrysanthemum cultivation.
Soon afterwards Michael met Sally at a friend’s 21st birthday party and the pair began courting – enjoying trips to Chelsea Flower Show and picnics in Keyhaven.
The couple were engaged on Christmas Day 1959 and married on 17th September 1960 at St Andrew’s Church in Landford, Wiltshire, before honeymooning in France, Holland and Germany.
They then lived in a cottage at Tadburn Nursery, provided by Michael’s employer. The couple continued to be very involved with Romsey Round Table activities including the annual carnival parade.
In 1964 Michael was offered the opportunity to take over the management of Nethercourt Nursery in Pennington – which included two acres of greenhouses and 20 acres of arable land. They moved to a cottage opposite the Wheel Inn at Pennington and in 1964 celebrated the birth of their first daughter Annabel.
Michael transferred to Lymington Round Table and soon took over the role of Father Christmas, visiting youngsters at the White House Hospital in Milford on Sea in 1965. He continued for the next 53 years – acting as Father Christmas aboard the Lymington Rotary Club sleigh and during Lymington’s annual Santa on the Quay celebrations as well as in Milford-on-Sea.
The family moved to Milford-on-Sea in 1967 after Michael was offered the opportunity to run Manor Road Nurseries. Soon after building work had finished on the new house, they welcomed their second daughter, Sophie, in 1967, followed by Victoria in 1969 and son William in 1974.
Tragically, after battling cancer for two years, Victoria died in August 1993 when she was just 24 years old, having recently qualified as a teacher in Canterbury.
Along with other local producers, including Derf Paton from Pinetop Nursery in Pennington, Michael was involved in the launch of New Forest Growers Limited, acting as a director and company secretary.
After working for A.R Wills for more than 25 years, Michael was warned the Manor Road site would be placed on the market. He and Sally were able to negotiate a deal to buy their house and, together with others, they formed a business to take over and continued to grow tomatoes and leafy salads. They later grew rhododendrons and other potted plants for Exbury Gardens near Beaulieu, and shrubs for Hillier’s Nursery at Romsey.
Michael served as chairman of the Lymington Round Table in 1971. He also became a member of Milford Stamp Club, acting as its chairman until his death, and was a sideman and church reader at All Saints Church in Milford, also until his death. In addition, Michael was a trustee of the Milford Girl Guide building in Sea Road.
He became a committee member of Milford Royal British Legion in 1978, and remained with the organisation for the rest of his life, serving as chairman from 1986 to 2006, and then branch welfare officer until his death. He was heavily involved with organising the village’s Remembrance Day events, and was awarded the Legion Gold Badge for his services to the organisation.
In 1976 Michael was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, which enabled him to visit Romania and northern Europe for six weeks to study production and marketing of horticulture crops. He was later presented with a fellowship medallion by the Queen Mother at Goldsmiths Hall in London.
With his three daughters attending Milford Primary School, Michael joined the Parents and Friends Association and, along with others, fundraised for an outdoor swimming pool and new play equipment. Michael was a school governor between 1979 and 1998 and was presented with a gold watch as a retirement gift.
Sally became a founding chairman of the Milford-on-Sea Village Community Committee in 1978, and Michael supported her as she organised a huge range of activities including the May Day fair, carnival procession and Christmas events.
After concluding his service with Lymington Round Table, Michael was invited to join the town’s Rotary Club and, following many years of service, became the club’s president in 1991. In recognition of his contributions Michael was made an honorary Rotary member and awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship – the organisation’s highest honour.
Despite undergoing two triple heart bypass operations, Michael remained incredibly active, even working as ‘Milford’s oldest paper boy’, delivering more than 100 papers to houses around the village and in Keyhaven every morning until he was in his 70s.
After sub-letting the greenhouses Michael and Sally enjoyed a number of wonderful holidays visiting the Greek Islands, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey and Spain. They also delighted in spending time with their children and their grandchildren Zoe, Archie and Jake.
Michael passed away on 15th September 2019. Following a private family cremation, a thanksgiving and celebration service for his life will take place at All Saints Church Milford on Sea on Tuesday 5th November at 2pm.
Sally said: “The suddenness of Michael’s death has been so painful for us all as a family but I would like to express my thanks to all our friends who have supported us at this difficult time.”
“I feel so fortunate to have shared over 60 years of happiness with such a wonderful, caring, loving and very special man.”
Anyone wishing to donate in Michael’s memory can give to the Royal British Legion, (Milford on Sea Branch) or Wessex Heartbeat c/o Tapper Funeral Services.