How to sum up such a rich life - a journey from Skegness to York, and so many places in between.
It was a windy and frosty morning on March 22nd 1937 in Skegness when Frank Arnold Chappell was born in an upstairs room at number 3 Dorothy Crescent, the second child to Connie and Charles. As he loved to say it was 9 months after the longest day and he would like to take a tipple on the longest day to celebrate the start of his journey on a life that was so rich and warm and would make a difference to so many people in so many ways.
Not an easy time to be a child during and just after the war, but he always said it was a great time. Skegness was a small and warm community in which he thrived having odd jobs such as baker's delivery boy. 83 years later he still yearned to return at any opportunity.
It was as a gangly teenager that he spotted a 14-year-old girl with gorgeous cheekbones playing the role of the Archangel Gabriel with papier-mache wings made by her father, holding a sword for all she was worth, and he knew then that this was the one. He said and always said he was the luckiest person to have met her, but he thought he never had a chance. 58 years later showed he was wrong.
All his life he felt he was being nudged to make a series of choices and the finest came when at Durham University he had a voice in his head saying "Frankie Boy, you need to try the Ministry", and being a little cheeky he answered, "I will if you see yourself right to nudge Gail Bell and her cheekbones my way". And so it was.
Dad went to Cheshunt Theological college (he said mainly because it was close to Tottenham Hotspur's training ground in the days of Danny Blanchflower one of his favourite players). The nudger was at work again as the Dean of the college had a great friend, Ralph Emmerson who was looking for a Deacon and so Dad headed to St Michael's, Headingley and Ralph Emmerson became one of Dad's chief mentors throughout his ministry.
Dad was ordained in October 1960 at Ripon Cathedral and on the same day became engaged to Gail Bell. St Clements Church, Skegness was the venue for the wedding on October 14th 1961, it even made the front page of the Skegness Standard newspaper – perhaps his first taste of celebrity !!
It was in Headingley that Andrew was born in 1964, then from the home of cricket a move across the city to the home of football, Elland Road and Beeston Hill where he was appointed Vicar in 1965 with Christopher arriving in 1966.
I have many happy memories of Beeston, and one of my earliest memories is walking to the bottom of the hill with Dad and Andy and catching the bus into Leeds with Dad. These were the days of bus conductors. He paid for the bus and then screwed up the ticket. As the ticket inspector came, I was really worried that we would be arrested for non-payment. But as always through life, Dad somehow placated the inspector and ensured that all was well. This is typical of him, he always made sure that people came first, and their care was central to him. I always felt safe in his company, knowing that he would do everything in his power to make my life journey as happy as anyone could wish for. He would also occasionally take us down to Elland Road where I believe you could get in for the last ten minutes to see the game for free. It's quite daunting for a six-year-old in the stands, but he as always made sure all was well.
Then came the time to move, though not before Dad had turned down a few Parishes in order to ensure that the Church Hall extension was completed so that the community could benefit.
On to St Mary's Garforth in 1973 where we noticed that he and mum became a really strong part in the fabric of the community. And it was his personable and likeable approach that made him so valued there. Dad could be easily spotted around town on his bike with a handy saddlebag containing a small Communion set with which he could attend the sick and elderly residents. He said it was the best way to get around, it keeps you fit, and you can be easily stopped for a chat.
Mum became Sister Chappell, the Community Midwife. Mum was also known as the Vicar's wife, and he was known as the midwife's husband to many. They made a great team. His personal guidance was subtle, knowing that at heart, all people are good.
While at Garforth he joined the Masons and that also became integral to his life. He always said it helped him become a better person, and he gave so much to others. Personally, I feel blessed to have spent the last few years sharing Masonry with him. The car journeys to St Wilfrid Lodge in Leeds were always enjoyable as he regaled me with stories from his life. Such as the way he wooed my mum as they sat having a cold drink after tennis at the Derbyshire Miners holiday park in Skegness. Looking down, he noticed they had matching birthmarks on their legs in the form of an isosceles triangle and said it was a sign they were well matched.
His final ministry was in Darley where he enjoyed the country community. We as a family would go beating the bounds on Boxing days, working off the Christmas day food. I know he took great interest in the way that all communities are different and felt the way to be part of a community is to accept everyone. It was here he also joined the Navy (as a Chaplain) and got to go to Portsmouth aboard the Ark Royal.
Dad and Mum also got the travel bug going to many far-flung places, Mexico, Australia, America, Scandinavia to name a few – they always managed to find friends and family along the way, with Dad often helping out in various Wedding and Christening services.
Another great love of his, and the rest of the Chappell family were the Mighty Imps – Lincoln City- we always look out for their results and knowing they have been really successful in the last few years kept him happy. His heroes were the Cowley brothers who were their managers.
Later in life Dad and Mum retired to York and welcomed four grandchildren, Max, Kate, Holly and Megan into the world who I am sure have treasured memories of their own that they will hold close to them. Whether it be the interesting presents he bought, his off the cuff quips or the way he lived such a busy and rich life and the absolute sheer fun they had with Grandad.
Charles and Connie would be proud of the bundle of joy that they brought into the world and who gave so much to others.
The last months were a struggle for him and saw him in a lot of pain, but to everyone who visited him, he remained cheerful and upbeat. The care that Mum showed him throughout his life and particularly during the last period is to be admired. His last hours were peaceful, which was a comfort to us all.
He has been at the centre of all our family milestones Births, Deaths, Marriages & Christenings and he will forever remain that. Now it's our turn to say goodbye to Dad, Frank, Frankie Boy, Reverend, Grandad, friend, brother, son. You couldn't have been better at any of them.
It is my honour and privilege to recount the major part played in Frank's life by Freemasonry over the last 45 years.
Freemasonry is not a religion but requires members to believe in a Supreme Being, such as God, Allah, Shiva, Yahweh, Buddha etc. and follow their own faith. It is Theistic and insists that we avoid all Religious and Political discussion. It urges its members to have as a foundation the practice of every moral and social virtue and has Brotherly Love as one of its three main principles. The established churches have had problems with their understanding of Freemasonry over the years but if two previous Archbishops of Canterbury have been members and seen nothing wrong who are we to judge and Frank saw no conflict of interest.
Frank joined St Wilfrid Lodge at Castle Grove, Headingley, Leeds in June 1975. He was proposed by Jimmy Spencer who years before was the Chairman of the Parochial Council, St Michaels Church, Headingley and had interviewed Frank for the post of Curate. He became a family friend and is the Godfather of Christopher. Frank soon after joined St Michaels Chapter, a part of Freemasonry, in the same building.
Masons are always looking out for three particular types of new members; Accountants to look after the money; Organists to play hymns, during processions and ceremonies; and Clergy to give prayers and graces before and after meals. Frank and his dog collar were therefore made very welcome, and he was in popular demand. His idiosyncratic little graces before meals were funny and apt and he must have spent a lot of time preparing them.
The Masonic structure is a Lodge or Chapter as a basic unit, of which there about 200 in West Yorkshire, overseen by the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding and then Grand Lodge in London. After Frank had been Master of his Lodge in 1992, he was rapidly appointed Provincial Chaplain and served with distinction for about 10 years. He was appointed to Assistant Grand Chaplain in 1999 and promoted again in 2010 to Past Grand Junior Deacon – the regalia he is wearing in the photograph on the Order of Service. In the Chapter, he was the Provincial 'Joshua', a priestly role, for 5 years and attained Grand Chapter rank. His duties as Provincial Chaplain saw him officiate at consecrations of new Lodges and Centenary celebrations as a result of which, he was made an Honorary member of nine Lodges. The wonderful Orations he gave at these meetings were tremendous and an inspiration to all present.
Beyond the Craft and Chapter are what are called 'Side Orders' of Masonry of which a number are Christian. Frank was quickly introduced into these: -
In 1977 he joined the Loidis Conclave of 'The Red Cross of Constantine', in Leeds. He served as Divisional High Prelate for 24 years and 5 years as Grand High Prelate of the Order and was finally honoured as Knight Commander of Constantine. One of the highlights of his time was in 2006 when he assisted in the Service and arrangements for the Orders celebration, here in York Minster, to mark the 1700th Anniversary of Constantine's Proclamation as Emperor. We had over 500 Knights, and Ladies present from all over the World in Regalia and dined at York Racecourse. Constantine's Proclamation eventually resulted in Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Statue of Constantine outside was very generously supported by contributions from the Red Cross of Constantine. In 2015 The Order sought to hold its 150th Anniversary here in York but the Dean at the time objected, and we instead visited and were welcomed to Lincoln Cathedral where Frank delivered the Prayers of Intercession.
In 1979 he was installed a Knight in King George V Preceptory of Knights Templar in Leeds. He was Provincial Almoner for 26 years looking after the welfare of the Knights and was honoured with Grand rank in both Knights Templar and Knights of Malta. In 2012 he was Eminent Preceptor again on the occasion of our Centenary, a very special event.
In 2003 he was perfected in Leodiensis Chapter of the Rose Croix in Leeds. The ceremony includes quite a lot of Bible readings and admonishments of which the Prelate on the day, who was a bit of a wag, said: "As if I need to tell you !!". He was a regular attender and travelled over on the bus from York to Leeds to attend practices even when not really required. Soon after he had been the Most Wise Sovereign of Leodiensis, he travelled to London to receive further honours.
In 2008 he was Installed as a Knight of St Thomas of Acon – a commemorative Order based on the Chivalric Order founded at the time of the Crusades in the 1100s and named after Thomas a Becket, the assassinated Archbishop of Canterbury. As a thank you for his assistance in organising their Annual Church Services he was appointed Honorary Provincial Almoner in 2019.
In 2008 he also became Honorary Chaplain of the Order of St John, a Christian Order, and organised their regular Church Services.
Recently he was admitted a Knight Beneficent of Holy City, an Order allied to the Knights Templars.
The only Christian Order he did not join was the Knight Templar Priests, and Order of Holy Wisdom. This Order wears a hat which could be loosely described as a Bishop's Mitre, and Frank felt it was inappropriate for him to be involved wearing such a headdress.
Overall, Frank has had a wide involvement with Freemasonry and met and became firm friends with a myriad of people who he would never have met in the ordinary course of his life. These have enriched his time on earth as he too has enriched theirs in so many ways.
For example, when he became Vicar of St Luke's in Beeston among his congregation was Tony Walker a young man who he confirmed and later married to Jenny Shackelton who had previously lived and worshipped in Beeston. Her father was Horace Shackelton who was in charge of the Leeds and Holbeck Building Society and a member of my Lodge, St Michaels. Tony Walker joined St Michaels just after me in 1978, and for 25 years we were the firmest of friends. Sadly, he died of cancer and Frank officiated at his Funeral at Adel Church in Leeds. Another very firm friend of mine Michael Jones had, about the same time, divorced at the age of 70 and I introduced him to Jenny Tony's widow. They were married within a year and had 10 happy years together. Frank performed their wedding ceremony at Adel Church, and he managed to interweave the happy event of Tony and Jenny's wedding, Tony's sad funeral and Michael and Jenny's happy wedding day all beautifully said with such calm and natural aplomb. Whenever he saw Jenny over the last decade, he would say "I married her twice!!" Michael too has sadly passed away and guess who did the Service!
Frank, I have a complaint to make. I have seen you do many, many wonderful, kind, witty and thoughtful funeral services. Several years ago, I said to you, in all seriousness, that I wanted you to do my funeral service. You just laughed whenever I said this. You said it just once back to me that I could do yours! I understand from Gail that you said Tony Llewellyn can do some words! Well, Frank, it looks like I will have to find someone else to give my farewells, but here I am and can I say on behalf of all your Masonic Brothers that it has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to have known you.
In one of our Masonic ceremonies, a Brother is exhorted to live respected and die regretted. You have done that in abundance Frank you have certainly lived respected and sadly die regretted by all those who have known and loved you.
God Bless, Tony Llewellyn