Radio Sandwell African / Caribbean News

TV chef reunites late parents in final act of love

2013-04-05 19:10:55

POPULAR TELEVISION chef Rustie Lee has reunited her beloved late parents in one final act of love - by placing them together in a shared grave.

Lee's 87-year-old mum Eugenie Edwards died four months ago and was buried in Birmingham's Handsworth Cemetery, yards from where her late father Archie was also laid to rest in 1978, aged 58.

But Lee said she felt 'very unhappy' that her parents were split up in the same cemetery, so she decided to reunite them by having her father moved to be with her mother.

Her wish was finally granted on Thursday April 4 - Archie's birthday - when family members gathered for a graveside service conducted by Pastor Bryan Scott, of Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church, who conducted her mother's funeral there four months ago.

"I feel a tremendous relief that I have finally reunited them because so often in her last days my mum used to call out for 'Papa Sweetie' as she called dad," said Lee, the original queen of Caribbean cuisine, who was resident chef on TV-am in the 1980s.

"I had a dream recently about my dad where he came to me and kissed me and said 'thank you.' They were so happy together in life. I feel I've done the right thing and closed the final chapter.

"It's not easy to do as there are quite a lot of legal issues involved but I have had great support from Handsworth Cemetery and Diane Young, the funeral administrator at N Wheatley & Son, who has been with me every step of the way.

"I realise that I made a very unusual request, but I want people to know that it can be done. I feel I can move on now."

As the coffins were brought together, the family played the song Reunited by Peaches & Herb, which was a hit in the year her father died. They followed this with Harry Belafonte's upbeat calypso classic Jamaica Farewell.

"It was very emotional - there wasn't a dry eye around the graveside," added Lee, who has a grown up son James with her husband Andreas.

The family then celebrated her parents' lives with a meal at Akamba, in Tythe Barn Lane, Shirley, a restaurant and garden centre, based on the theme of an African village.

Archie, who was Christened Pembroke Keith Archibald Edwards, and worked for the Royal Air Force, left Portland, Jamaica, as many did, to help rebuild 1950s Britain.

Along with Eugenie, also from Portland, he was a business pioneer in Birmingham and set up one of the UK's first Caribbean takeaways in Soho Hill, Hockley.

At Eugenie's funeral service in December, many paid tribute to her, calling her "one lovely lady" who often gave away food to customers on hard times.

It's been a tough six months for Lee, who made headlines last October when she challenged hospital doctors who wanted to put her mother on a controversial "pathway" for end-of-life patients.

At the time Eugenie had been admitted to Birmingham's City Hospital with a chest infection and medics said she had just 48 hours to live.

But Lee refused permission for the pathway treatment, which involves rationing the amount of medication given to patients thought to be near death.

Lee said Eugenie made a dramatic recovery and was even "dancing in the bed" before she left hospital six days later.

Her mum died peacefully in her sleep in December at a nursing home in Handsworth Wood.

At the time Lee said: "Mum lived longer than anyone predicted and I think this shows that doctors need to review their practices.

"The pathway system might be right for some patients, but it wasn't right for my mum. I'm so glad that she went in a peaceful, dignified way in her own time."

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