John and Elizabeth Stranger, rightfully present at a Tasman Revival meeting.
As far as we were concerned, and here I speak principally of Bob Levett and myself, he was Geoffrey's offsider. He was the man in the other room in the office in Sussex Street who was always busy at his desk, or the man who strolled from place to place in the pits and offices at Warwick Farm during the race meetings looking like he always had something to do.
He was, inevitably, immaculately dressed in a brown suit. Other than that we basically knew nothing about him.
We never really said much more than 'hello' to him, or maybe had a brief comment with him about entries for a race meeting or some event which had just taken place. It was only later that John mentioned to me that he'd competed at Marsden Park in Alex Strahan's Lotus 6.
When Warwick Farm closed and the AARC - the company - wound up, Geoff offered the comment that John would be all right, that he had financial resources without the job he was losing. Nevertheless, he fell into a job with the people who run the Sydney Motor Show and for at least the next couple of decades that's what he did.
I also had some minor dealings with him during his time and still I learned little about his past.
But now I have cause to wonder. After his death last week I received a message from Max Stahl about his passing, and today a longer one Max has passed on from Scott, his son. It opens up more reason to question why I didn't know more about the man... here's what he wrote:
Some of you may have already heard but it is with great regret that I am writing to you to tell you that my Dad, John Stranger, passed away last Tuesday, the 29th November.
While most of you will know that he suffered for many years with arthritis, it was of complications from prostate cancer that had spread to his bones, along with Bronchopneumonia, which finally made him too weak to go on. He died peacefully with both my mother and me by his side and Michelle in his thoughts in hospital here in England. He was in his 79th year.
I knew that John spent a lot of time in England. I'm tempted to wonder if he came from there in the first place, but somewhere there'll be a death notice that will clarify that point. A little more from Scott on that subject:
We are so pleased that he made it back to Sandywell, the home that he loved so much and shared with mum in the Cotswolds for his final months, which we believe were his final wishes.
So he had a firm attachment for this place and went there regularly. But Scott writes of another endearment he had:
Dad spent his life passionate about cars, motorsport and travelling, especially to Europe. In one of the last chats I had with him he asked if I could get my car close enough to the hospital window to give it a few blips on the throttle so he could hear it. It is with this that we leave him to motor on.
What a wonderful revelation! We don't know at this stage what kind of car Scott is talking about, whether it's some everyday hack which barely makes a ripple on the decible meters or a sporting model with a more attention-getting utterances. Whichever, it's a clear indicator of how John Stranger loved cars.
We will be holding a small service near Cheltenham this Wednesday 7th December and will be laying his ashes to rest in a field burial ground from which one can see Sandywell, where we hope he will be at peace.
Scott uses the word 'small' there, but not 'private'... I wonder if there's anyone here who could go along and represent us at this service?
And, for the purposes of this topic, what memories do others hold of this well-spoken, neatly dressed, patient and quiet motor sportsman?