Gale Salmon died on 24 April 2016.
It was around 1997 that I first met Gale and Judith Salmon, although before that I am sure I would have been aware of his contributions at District Council. I was about to go to Oxford to begin my training for the ministry, and it had been suggested to me and to the church that when I returned I might be a candidate for non-stipendiary ministry at St. James’.
Gale was not just an Elder of the church but also a really good friend to me; that is, he offered wise counsel, honest feedback, support when needed and always with a sense of humour. Gale was a realist and a pragmatist – if it didn’t work the first time, then there had to be a better way, and together with the Elders we would find it. He was also a practical man – a solver of problems. If we needed a screen in the church, then he would devise an ingenious way of fixing it so that it was unobtrusive when not in use, but very visible when needed. And I always looked forward to the hockey ‘musical chairs’ which he devised for church New Year parties – lots of laughter and lots of bruises!
Gale had a strong liberal Christian faith. His contributions to Bible Study sessions were always thoughtful and thought provoking. In so many ways Gale helped to shape my ministry, and for that I will always be grateful.
I first met Gale when we moved to Buckhurst Hill in 1976, forty years ago and we began to attend the URC in Palmerston Road. I remember him as a pillar of the church, very knowledgeable about church affairs and local history. He would be always around at church events, taking photographs and later putting them on display on a board at church.
When we had a church party he would bring out this game, Indoor Hockey which he had invented, with bits of wood and sticks. I never liked playing it but it was very ingenious!
He was always very keen on keeping the church premises and grounds in good order so he would arrange for a working party to help him put polish on the hall floors during the summer months, using special large application brushes which he had devised. I remember one occasion when he persuaded several of us to help him cut all the ivy down from the sides of the Russell Road path and pack all the cuttings into large plastic sacks – quite a task.
When I agreed to become Church Secretary in 2009, not having much idea of what it all entailed, Gale was an invaluable source of information and support – I could always go to him and ask what was the correct procedure for church events and items on the agenda at Church Meeting. We will all miss his quiet wisdom and quirky sense of humour.
From the first week we arrived in Buckhurst Hill, in a cold December in 1982, Judith and Gale made us feel part of the church family. Gale was a quiet, thoughtful and fatherly figure in our lives, with a delightful store of game, jokes, funny stories and quirky observations that kept both adults and children amused all the time we knew him. I especially remember the game of indoor hockey he invented for our Christmas parties in which everyone could participate but only the truly persistent could win. Always concerned for the fabric of the church building but more quietly for the wellbeing of us all within it, Gale would sometimes nudge me to notice a pastoral concern.
Our two boys grew up knowing Gale well, enjoying his occasional visits to our home for Sunday meals where he always showed so much interest in their development without appearing too serious about it.
I discovered that Gale had been a student at Queen Mary College where my father taught him some Applied Mathematics and with characteristic self-deprecation Gale commended he thought my father must have found him quite a challenge.
We have said farewell to a very important man whose intellect, humour, care and loyalty will be an example to us all.
It is interesting that all three of us remember the hockey game. Clearly I was the more competitive and had the bruises to show for it! June