One evening last week at the close of a perfect day, I stood on the balcony of my little first-floor flat here at Berea Gardens and watched the dusk envelop the sea in the distance and the beautiful gardens beneath my feet.
I silently raised my glass to a humble, self-effacing young pharmacist, who a little more than 50 years ago, had a dream of providing the elderly and frail of East London with suitable accommodation in their golden years.
In the quiet of this glorious evening I toasted to Richard Mogg, a truly remarkable man who would have been 86 this year, for the privilege of standing on the sturdy balcony where I now stood.
I thanked him on behalf of all of us who live here for the peace of mind, the tight security which protects us day and night, the competent and gracious staff and management and camaraderie, which comes with living with people of your own age.
Most of all, having read his book Berea Gardens: A Dream Come True, I applauded him for his dedication and for the sheer tenacity he had to have the project completed.
Read the book yourself to see how this magnificent retirement complex of retirement accommodation and five-star frail care section, set in beautiful lawns and gardens, which stretch from Chamberlain Road down the lower half of Jarvis Road almost to the North-East Expressway, was born.
I was fortunate to meet Richard and on such occasions he was always courteous.
As happens to many working people in their prime, I paid little attention to retirement – it was so far off! But believe me, it arrives sooner than you think.
When I woke to the fact that I had better start thinking about it, it was almost too late. Nothing was available.
We tried the various retirement places establishments in and around East London but some were not even putting people on their waiting lists.
Berea Gardens took our names but added that their waiting list was eight years! And that is exactly how long we waited.
So plan for retirement get it done now – is my advice.
Anyway, the point of this piece is to tell you about the celebration we had here the other day: the unveiling of a splendid bust of Richard Mogg, our founder.
We were all invited to the spacious dining room together with management, staff, various members of the public past and present concerned over the years with the construction and management of the project. Among those present was a former mayor of East London Donald Card, to whom Richard, himself a former councillor, first broached his idea and of course, the charming Mrs Cathy Mogg, Richard’s widow.
It was a pleasant function at which a number of dignitaries paid tribute to the founder. Especially entertaining was the address by Mike Schulze, our incumbent MD, who caught Richard’s benevolent but determined persona perfectly by outlining Richard’s never-say-die attitude to any task he put his mind to.
Mike reminded the audience that Richard was an accomplished sportsman and a provincial class squash player, who represented Border for many years. He and a friend were working overseas at one time and Richard was selected for his county’s squash team.
Whenever he was in his friend’s vicinity for an inter-county match they would team up for a practice match for Richard, who would thrash him every time.
Fed up with this, his friend hatched a plan. Next time Richard was in town he faked being injured and asked Richard if he could play against saying would apologise for the fact he was injured and unable to play but said he had received a call from the SA Embassy asking him if he would play against oblige by giving a game to a young South African, who was “a promising player” who had come to England on business.
What he had done, in fact, was to arrange with the famous Pakistani squash player Azam Khan, four-time winner of the British Open, to impersonate the South African and play Richard.
Azam quite enjoyed the joke and played to the part very well his impersonation of the South African to play Richard was excellent and convincing.
Richard’s friend asked Azam not to kill the point but just to keep Richard on the run. There followed such long rallies in the game that after only three points, the very puzzled Richard was exhausted.
Then Azam made his first mistake.
He played a shot high on to the front wall which dropped the ball dead as a dodo right back into the backhand corner. Richard knew enough about the game to realise that very few people in the world could play that shot.
Coupled with the fact that his friend was in the stand laughing, Richard realised he had been conned.
True to his nature, he still made a game of it as best as he could but confessed afterwards he had been run off his feet and was so exhausted that he lost his county game the next day!
So we honour an exceptional East Londoner. May the bust of his likeness, which now adorns the entrance of the foyer of his beloved Berea Gardens Service Centre, remain there for many years and serve as a reminder to everyone that, with hard work and dedication worthwhile dreams do come true.