Throughout our lives we meet many people and of those, many pass through and barely scratch the surface of our existence. It is rare that we not only find a person that has the ability and the personality to influence and encourage us but also is willing to give you their time to do it. Cllr Dr Geoffrey Walker was one of those rare people, his working life was devoted to helping others and he was someone who always had time for me when I needed advice.
I first met Geoff at a demonstration in Sunderland where I was new to the Labour Party and did not know many members meaning I was there on my own. We chatted and he made me feel like I had known him for years, little did I know then just how much he would go on to mean to me.
As I became more and more involved in the Labour Party and then also the Co-operative Party, of which Geoff was also a member, he was always on hand to offer me his help and share his knowledge and experience. Geoff had the ability to make me feel like I had come up with the solution to a problem all on my own. He never told me I was wrong; he would simply suggest to me that there were other ways, say something like “this is what I would try” and we would discuss and work out how to fix the issue together. We would discuss politics, philosophy, football and how to change the world for the better over a pint. Geoff was an academic, an educated man but I never felt out of my depth talking to him, he brought me with him and encouraged me to learn.
“I was thinking I might look into applying to do a degree” I said to him once, sat in his garden with his dog Libby. “You could do that no problem; you’d fly through it” he replied without a moment’s hesitation and proceeded to ask me about what I would like to do and how I would make it happen. He gave me something that I will always be grateful for and will always look back on fondly, he gave me his time. He was a colleague, a political father figure, a mentor but most of all he was my friend.
The thought of not being able to pick up the phone and ask for his advice or talk about Sunderland’s latest disappointing performance over a pint is heart-breaking. I take some solace in the fact that I believe he knew how much he meant to me and how much I valued his friendship. My admiration for Geoff was clearly shared by many others. Since the announcement of his passing there have been numerous recounted stories and messages of condolence. A theme that runs through those messages is that he was a true gentleman, a Socialist committed to helping others and an all-round top bloke. My thoughts are with his wife Marilyn, daughter Claire and son-in-law Andy for whom my heart is broken also.
I will miss my friend.
So come, my friends, be not afraid. We are so lightly here. It is in love that we are made. In love we disappear.