April 24 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 30, 2013
A vicar with a love of boating almost as great as his calling to God will be taking one last ride down the river on route to his final place of rest.
The Rev John Waller, who died last Sunday, aged 72, will be transported along his beloved River Deben towards Waldringfield for the funeral at All Saints Church where he was the vicar for 37 years.
Loved and respected by the many whose lives he touched, Mr Waller was described as a “man of the people who always put others first”.
His wife, Deborah, whom he married in October according to his dying wish, said he had followed his calling to help others until the end.
“No matter how ill he was, he would make the effort for other people,” she said. “His work and his calling was more important than anything.”
Though they married late, the couple were together for more than 20 years and Mr Waller’s caring wife supported him through his long battle with cancer.
“He was my friend, my soulmate and my husband,” she said.
Despite suffering three long years with the disease, Mr Waller retained a highly active presence in the church and the many local organisations he supported.
Even those who knew him as a fellow patient in the cancer ward were said to have described him as a “tower of strength” .
Born in Debenham to a long line of clergymen, Mr Waller spent his young adult life at sea with the Missions to Seafarers charity providing emotional support to mariners across the globe.
Returning to Suffolk, he joined the church in 1974 as the fifth successive generation of Wallers to do so and went on to celebrate the tradition’s 150th unbroken year in 2007. The vicar spent three years at St John’s the Baptist in Ipswich before taking over from his father at Waldringfield, where he remained until his death.
Fellow clergyman, Father Sam Leeder, the parish priest at St Pancras Catholic Church in Ipswich, became “best of friends” with Mr Waller after a chance meeting in Ramsholt more than 30 years ago.
Despite representing different denominations of the faith, the two men developed a lasting friendship and even shared the pulpit on a number of Lenten services.
“He had a great ability to lift everyone’s spirits,” said Mr Leeder.
“When we lose someone close it always leaves a hole and I think John will leave a big hole in a lot of lives.
“Those who knew him will say it was great to share his friendship.”
Though sincere in his devotion to God, Mr Waller was also remembered by many as a jolly, happy man who never took himself too seriously.
Franny Peake, who met Mr Waller at Ipswich Boxing Club 37 years ago, and accompanied him on many boating expeditions, recalled how he could light up a church service with his sense of humour.
“He always had something funny to say – he was a one off,” said Mr Peake.
His boat, named Jesus, was also a cause for many jokes.
“Jesus is coming to the rescue, he would say”, recounted Mr Peake.
Even as his death drew close, he would not shy from making light of the situation, telling people he was “sick of apologising for still being alive”.
As a vicar who was revered for his delivery of a funeral service, Mr Waller also planned his own, which his wife has been entrusted to see carried out.
“Everything’s all down in black and white,” she said.
The funeral takes place at All Saints Church, Waldringfield, on Wednesday, January 8.