Margaret Joan Fontebasso (1931 – 2019)

Margaret, my wife passed away on the 20th of January this year after an illness she never took seriously: she was 1 month short of her 88th birthday and was married to me for nearly 58.

Born Margaret Joan Yetman in Crawley, when it was a village as she used to remind me, and lived there until April 1960 where she changed from an accounting job to a more varied secretarial one at the Royal Hotel in Bognor Regis: that’s where I met her.

She was a very reserved person, not easily distracted from what she was doing, especially by some Italian chef asking the most pertinent question when he, in all honesty did not the know the correct pronunciation of a particular word he was using, just a supercilious look that was what he got.

The ice, as I was calling it at the time, melted one day in Chichester where I went for the registration of an old banger (a 1932 Morris 8). Walking along West Street I saw her, when she realised who I was, (surprise, surprise) she greeted me with a…radiant smile! At first I thought she must have seen an old friend behind me and I was ready to cross the road, when she called my name. Well, well, well! Could she be the same person who looked at me superciliously 2 weeks before? Why YES, she was.

She asked me what I was doing and as I told her she replied, “you must be ready to have an English tea”. I replied that I preferred coffee, but I was curious to find out the difference between what she was alluding to and any other teas. We entered the Tea Room at what used to be a MORAN department store and we had a Cream Tea. What a lovely surprise! Later when on holiday, we always had time for a Cream Tea. That’s how it all began. We found that we liked the same kind of music,history and both enjoyed having serious discussions about morals in politics and religion.

One thing we did not agree on was FOOD! Margaret used to say that food is to live, while I was living for food. I believe she never really understood that as a chef, I too needed food to live, how could I pay my bills without it! Another thing we both enjoyed was late evenings strolls along the sea front and a cup of coffee at Macari’s when open. We married the following April.

In 1971 we moved to Cranleigh where we both worked at Cranleigh School, I was the Catering Manager and she was the Book Shop Manageress. Eventually we purchased the house in Charts Close and that was her last house move. She died after two operations to clear an intestinal blockage. Her funeral was on the 12th of February at St Nicolas Church, where some 200 people paid their respects to a “true lovely lady” as she was described in the over 150 cards Dorothy, her sister and I received. From the depths of our hearts, we would like to thank all the writers and everyone for the kind words of sympathy and condolences, we were truly overwhelmed.   

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