Obituary for Simon Mark Lissauer whose funeral was last Monday at St Laurence’s Church

Obituary for Simon Mark Lissauer whose funeral was last Monday at St Laurence’s Church

Simon was well known in our town. He died on 25 November aged 61 years. Thanks to the generosity of St Laurence’s Church and Victoria Allen, and financial support from Shropshire Council, Simon’s funeral was graceful and moving. Wild Edric filmed the service and the video is here. It is well worth listening to Tom Elwin beautiful singing of Panis Angelicus at 30 minutes in.

The eulogy was read by Catherine Beaumont on behalf of Simon’s friend since schooldays, Floyd Moody. It is reproduced below.

Tom Elwin sings Panis Angelicus (Image: Wild Edric.)

In remembrance of Simon Mark Lissauer born 12th February 1959, died 25th November 2020.

By Floyd Moody

Simon was the second of two children born to Frank and Jean Lissauer and entered the world on the 12th February 1959.

Simon’s father was a German Jew and, as a young lad, fled to Britain to escape the Nazi pogroms of the ‘30s. Despite the challenges he had in his early life, Frank went on to build a career in London as an expert of rare documents and graphics for the auction house Christie’s, a unique field of knowledge.

Jean Lissauer was a natural artist and taught art at a nearby girls’ school, juggling her time between teaching and running the home.

I met Simon in 1970 as a fellow pupil at Forest School in Snaresbrook.

We were drawn together from the pool of academia at the school as two likeminded souls with an interest in motorcycles – much to our parents’ disdain – the motorbike bit I mean!

The Lissauer family home in Buckhurst Hill was spectacularly bohemian. A massive, ornate house with a wonderful staircase and entirely filled with artworks, bookcases and classical furnishings. Fascinating to visit but you wouldn’t ever want to decorate it.

Simon’s interest in vehicles made him impatient to get out on the road…

So, the long gravel drive in front of the family home became the place where Simon taught himself to drive. For me, at the time, it was amazing that he was allowed to “park” (for want of a better expression) the family car – you must understand that at this stage, we were around 15 and still at school.

On one occasion, when Simon was “parking” the family car, he suggested that I had a go at “parking” the family car. Why not? Looked easy enough. With Simon sitting next to me in the family car, I promptly “parked” it into the side of the family house.

Anyone would have thought we’d just robbed a bank had they seen us running away that day and it goes without saying that Simon remained hesitant to give me the keys to anything ever again.

When he reached 16, he got a moped and at last had the freedom of the highway.

At 17 the moped was sold and he bought a ‘50s BSA A10 with a massive sidecar – it couldn’t be just a normal bike. The sidecar, as quirky as it was, didn’t last long and the BSA became his steed of choice for years to come.

Simon’s interest in vehicles was always for the peculiar, He had a phase of buying Izetta’s, known as bubble cars. They made you laugh just looking at them. If you don’t know what a bubble car is, the clue is in the name. Look them up. Bubble cars are super compact but still carry two people, to do this the entire front of the car is also the door. To get in and out, you must leave space in front when parking… However, if reverse gear decides not to work at a critical moment during parking, exiting isn’t always easy – as Simon found out. Bubbles being rounded, can also roll, but that’s another story.

Looking back, nearly every vehicle Simon had then is now priceless, he was simply ahead of everyone else at the time.

Simon’s first job after leaving school was as an apprentice toolmaker and he loved it – both the practical and the college work. He did that until ambition led him to leave and strike out with another biking enthusiast to open a shop repairing motorbikes. This went well until Simon’s partner ended up in hospital bringing the project to an end. In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t due to a motorbike accident!

In 1978 I went to work in Hamburg in Germany. I’d only been there a month when my old school mate surprised me by being in my hotel when I got home from work one evening. It was great to see him and having a friend there improved life enormously.

Simon worked alongside me and with his first pay packet what do you think he bought, not a bubble car but a VW K70 – interestingly the first water cooled VW passenger car.

An episode of “Auf Wiedersehen Pet” is pretty much what we did out there. We had a fantastic time, living in another country, well paid, bars open all night and, at that age, we had enough energy to power the Titanic through any iceberg.

When Simon left Hamburg, he proudly drove the K70 back home and continued to use it in the UK.

He built a workshop beside the family home in Buckhurst Hill and established himself there spraying anything anyone would bring him.

One of his most notable successes was the restoration of a 50s Frog Eye Sprite that he presented to his then girlfriend for Christmas 1982

Aged 24, and with the same girlfriend, Simon bought his first house in Walthamstow, east London. Out of our circle of friends they were the first to buy their own home.

Wanderlust on Simon’s part led to the house being amicably sold but it would be a few years before Simon was to go travelling. Before he could leave, he saw another house that he thought had prospects so bought it. This house, being in Blenheim Road, became known as Blenheim Palace and in the time Simon had it, he worked in the garage there, gave refuge to any number of travelling Kiwis, split the house into two flats, sold them and finally headed over to Canada with two friends. By now it was 1986.

I’ve often regretted not going on that Canadian trip. It was one of those adventures not to miss. However, you only recognise this after the event.

Again, the first pay packet bought a car, this time a ‘60s Chevy Impala – great big, V8 powered, American steel. Simon loved it.

An anecdote from those Vancouver days is when they were given the wrong food order at a well-known “yellow M” Drive In. Realising what had happened, they gratefully took the food, Simon floored the Chevy and they left with enough food to feed the neighbourhood kids when they got back to their flat – which wasn’t in the posh part of town but as the kids had taken a shine to Simon the Chevy kept its wheels.

When Simon returned to the UK, the Chevy was reluctantly left behind and then started the next phase of Simon’s life.

The Citroen 2CV was bizarre enough to be of interest to Simon and he set himself up in a workshop specialising in them.

It was around this time that he met the woman who was to become his wife.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Simon happier than he was at that time, he was clearly ready to settle down and became totally focused on becoming a husband and father.

I’m proud to have been the best man at their wedding – although, with hindsight, I don’t think I did a very good job.

Simon’s now widowed mother had retired and moved to Ludlow. This was to later draw Simon also to Ludlow and is ultimately the reason we’re here now.

Simon and his new wife were looking for a home to bring up their family, they’d had their first child, a son, and Shropshire seemed a good choice. After all, they could afford far more out of London than they ever could if they stayed

Their search found an idyllic, rural cottage just outside Oswestry, that was it. It was large enough for the family to expand into and there was plenty of space in the outbuildings for Simon to start a classic vehicle repair business.

It was a very happy and exciting time, moving from the Smoke to the good life.

The happy threesome moved into the cottage, Simon converted one of the outbuildings into a workshop, there he worked and the family thrived with the addition of two daughters.

There the young family enjoyed many good times with family and friends.

However, the financial crash of the early 90s brought difficult times for many. Anyone carrying debt was exposed and thousands lost their homes and more.

Sadly, the Lissauer family was one such victim.

Simon had a strong sense of belonging and believed passionately in the family structure and was prepared to work tirelessly to provide for them.

But what would one do if working tirelessly isn’t enough?

Personally, I can’t imagine. I can, however, say from my own experience that I only just scraped through those hard times myself.

The big advantage I had was that I wasn’t in an isolated, rural setting, I had friends around me that I’d known all my life and I didn’t have three children and a wife to provide for.

Tragically it was an untenable situation for the young family and the shared dream that had taken them to Shropshire ended.

Luckily for the family, Simon’s sister in law and her husband were able to provide somewhere for the family to live. But for Simon it was unthinkable to accept help. He needed to be the person providing for his family and for him it represented personal failure that he was unable to do so.

Failing was something that had never happened to Simon – especially involving something so dear to him – his family.

At the time everyone found his behaviour infuriating and no one could understand why he was doing the things he did. It took me years to understand the complexity of what had happened to Simon.

He did get help but it was mostly dealing with the symptoms and not the cause. As a result, there was no change and he slowly lost touch with his family. He never found the way back to them – there lies the main tragedy.

As said earlier, Simon’s mother had moved to Ludlow and around 13 years ago Simon came here to join her.

Over the years he lived in Ludlow, help from the council to be housed could have easily been obtained but Simon was fiercely independent and enormously proud. Everyone who tried to help with housing was eyed with suspicion and got nowhere. He said to me recently that while living in the garage “wasn’t ideal”, he at least was “in control”.

As Janis Joplin said: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”.

Simon didn’t sit around and mope, he was active within Ludlow and was a well-known character around town. He could drop into any number of places for a chat while in town, this church being one of them. Here he acted as steward and would show people around the church and share the building’s history. I was lucky to have had one such tour.

Ludlow Library was one of Simon’s favourite spots in town. There he could read and use the internet, as a result he was always up to speed on current affairs and great to have a discussion with.

Simon clearly found that sense of belonging that he so needed here in Ludlow, and despite the hardship he lived under I would never say he was unhappy. The only thing that bothered him was not being in contact with his family, he never stopped loving them and mentioned them nearly every time we spoke.

On behalf of family and friends, I want to thank all those in the community who have shared time with Simon, making his life richer. We likewise extend our thanks to all who helped or tried to help Simon make his life easier. I know there are many that come into these categories but I know two who need special mention at this point. I thank Andy Boddington for what he did for Simon and Catherine Beaumont, the person reading this, who showed us all that a little can be so much. Last but not least, we are also grateful for the kindness and support shown by St Laurence’s Church and Shropshire Council, without whose help much of this would not have been possible.

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