A FORMER army sergeant who was well known for performing tricks he learned while working at a circus has died aged 89.
Father-of-six Tommy Warner was born in Dalkey, a few miles from Dublin in Ireland, but moved to England in 1954 and worked as a labourer building what is now Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. He lived in Fawley in his later years.
He also had several other jobs including a labourer at Chipperfield’s Circus, where he learned to balance a park bench on his chin.
Although he was not a big drinker – preferring instead to spend time in the gym – another of his tricks was to drink a pint of beer while doing a handstand.
‘Larger than life’
When he first met future wife Linda, she was selling the Salvation Army’s War Cry magazine with her mother. They went on to marry in 1956 at Feltham Salvation Army Church. Having completed his national service, Tommy became a regular in the army.
In 1957 son David was born, followed by siblings Delia, Julie, Michelle, Simon and Andrea.
Tommy served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) for 22 years, reaching the rank of sergeant. Over the years he served in Yemen, Libya and Singapore – where his family joined him between 1966 and 1969 – as well as being posted to Deepcut in Surrey, and Kineton in Warwickshire.
He enjoyed playing badminton from the age of 11 until he was 85 and was crowned Singapore champion three times, as well as winning hundreds of other tournaments when he was often partnered by Linda.
Around 18 years ago Tommy and Linda moved from Farnborough, where he had been working as a caretaker, to Fawley to be nearer daughter Julie, who lives in Hythe.
Sadly, in 2012 son David – who had taken voluntary redundancy just a few months earlier – died after suffering a stroke aged just 55.
‘Strong as an ox’
A family man, Tommy had 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Until recent years he was still decorating his children’s houses, with Linda busy clearing their gardens, tidying sheds, garages and lofts and walking their dogs.
Delia said: “We didn’t ask – they just did it. Dad didn’t just help us, he helped everyone. Neighbours, friends and strangers were always greeted with a big wave with his arm in the air and an even bigger shout of ‘How do you do, my name is Sue’.”
Despite being only 5ft 2in, he was described as “larger than life” and “strong as an ox”.
Delia added: “Being Irish, he was a brilliant storyteller. He could tell stories for hours and kept everyone entertained as he ran up and down, acting the parts of who he was talking about and doing different voices. He would have us all in stitches.
“He was the life and soul of every family get-together, and our dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles and older generations all loved him. All our friends loved him too. They broke the mould when they made this wonderful man, and his passing has broken our hearts.”
‘His passing has broken our hearts’
Tommy spent two weeks being cared for at Lymington New Forest Hospital before he died on 17th December. Now his family have set up a Just Giving page in his memory to help the hospital’s MRI scanner appeal instead of well-wishers buying flowers for his upcoming funeral.
Delia explained: “It’s such a worthwhile cause, and dad would be so proud that he is still helping people. It was what he loved to do more than anything.
“We would like to thank the hospital for the fantastic care and respect they showed to dad, and the dignity they afforded him too. They also took great care of all of us in the loss of the man we all loved and miss beyond measure.”
A large military presence is expected at his funeral on 24th January, which will take place at All Saints Church in Fawley at 2pm.
To donate to the scanner appeal in Tommy’s memory visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sgt-tommy-warner-raoc.