A SELF-taught woodworker whose lovingly-crafted toys helped raise funds for so many charities over the years had his somewhat unusual but also very fitting dying wish granted.
Fred Slater spent years chipping away in his workshop at home, making toys from wood he’d got from Melton firms Hunt and Swain and Boulton & Paul (now Jeld-Wen) and then donating his wonderful pieces to charities which raffled them off to raise funds.
Fred’s wish was for his final journey to be taken in a Hunt and Swain truck.
And thanks to the help of the timber merchants and funeral directors JW Hazlewood & Son they made his dream come true by arranging for his coffin to be taken to Loughborough Crematorium on the back of a Hunt and Swain flat bed pick-up.
Fred’s widow, Christine, said: “He used to get lots of his wood from Hunt and Swain and off-cuts from what used to Boulton & Paul which they couldn’t use.
“Years ago he went to Hunt and Swain one day and asked David Swain (who ran Hunt and Swain for years before his death in 2008) if he could borrow one of their trucks for his final journey.
“He hadn’t mentioned it recently but when Fred died I asked Hunt and Swain if it was a possibility and the manager, Simon Green, said they’d do it.
“They re-floored the truck and used batons to make sure Fred’s coffin didn’t slide about in the back of the truck.”
It took Fred from JW Hazlewood’s Asfordby premises to his home in Grange Drive, Melton, before family and friends followed the truck to Loughborough Crematorium.
Christine added: “I’d really like to thank Hunt and Swain and JW Hazlewood & Son. They were both brilliant and the whole day was just what Fred would have wanted.”
Mr Green, of Hunt and Swain, said: “Fred was such a good-natured and good-hearted chap. He came to us for many years for various bits and bobs and we got to know him. The toys he used to make were really fantastic.”
Funeral director Sally Grice, who took over the reins at JW Hazlewood & Son in February last year, added: “Families personalising funerals is becoming a growing trend. It was very kind and nice that two local businesses could come together to afford Mr Slater’s wishes. Hunt and Swain did us and the Slater family proud.”
Fred (86) died on January 21 after a short-term illness. The service was in Loughborough on Monday, February 4.
Years ago, after his retirement, Fred used to make wooden toys which he donated to the Melton Lions’ grotto for the club to raffle off or sell to boost funds.
Among the many other charities, causes and organisations Fred made toys and other items for included the Craven Lodge School in Melton, where he worked as a teacher for about 18 years, Stillbirth and Neo-natal Deaths Charity (SANDS), Melton Health Services Scanner Appeal, Latham House Medical Practice, Rainbow’s Hospice, St Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray and District League of Hospitals and Community Friends, Twyford and District Royal British Legion, Leicestershire Macmillan Cancer Service, the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance and many more.
He also created a custom-made car for an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and crafted a model lorry for the Samuel Clay Memorial Fund - set up many years ago in memory of a 20-month-old Melton cot death victim.
Christine said: “Fred thoroughly enjoyed making things, it was his relaxation. He would put his hand to anything and he touched a lot of people’s lives.”