Keith Wawman by Joyce Smith and Keith Butler
On the 18th March we lost one of the characters of the cycling world when Keith Wawman died.
Whilst in East Surrey Hospital he had had a long but successful operation on his gall bladder and appeared to have recovered extremely well. However he then suffered a collapse caused by Deep Vein Thrombosis.
In 1945 he began work with Truett & Steel (as did many of his relatives!) in the Carpenters Shop. Eventually he worked his way up to General Foreman or, in today's parlance, Site Agent. He was extremely adept at getting the various building trade unions to work together without fuss or disagreement and without them realising. ln his files we found two wonderful letters from the Directors of Truett & Steel thanking him for a) getting an outside loo ready for a visit by the Queen Mother and b) sorting out problems with a new wing at Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital in spite of potential problems.
Keith was a cyclist with a capital "C". He began on an old tricycle with no brakes or saddle sailing down Windmill Bridge in Addiscombe to crash ingloriously at the bottom.
He joined the Addiscombe CC when he was 16 and it remained his first claim club. He time-trialled at all distances and was Club Champion on several occasions. Keith was always there as a team member with good solid rides. Keith also had considerable success when racing on a trike (this time with saddle and brakes).
Later Keith found special enjoyment with the Croydon Section of the CTC. When he met Angela he began riding all over the Continent and the British Isles often with Fred and Jean Stevens. The Dieppe Raid, Semaine Federal, Friendship Weekends and exchange visits with the Rouen AC were all part of his life.
In the 1980s he was one of the English "pioneers" who went to France for events under Les Audax Mondialle banner. This culminated in his Paris Brest Paris rides, various 1000 km and "fleches".
In this country pride of place must be given to his Lands End to John O'Groats ride in 104 hours. This was done without assistance and was a phenomenal effort. He was awarded a Medaille D'Or by the Audax Mondialle for his rides.
Although I knew of Keith since I began riding a bike I did not really get to be close friends until he invited Marilyn and others of the Croydon Section to visit the Semaine Federal in Rouen in 1993. My family and I have attended every "Semaine" since in every corner of France.
Later Bernard and Ann Daws took Keith and Marilyn with them on a Regional Touring Week to Mulhouse. The following year I went instead of Keith W and this completely foxed our French friends. From then on to them and our family he was known as Marilyn's other husband!
During the last 10 years Keith travelled the World; India, Tibet, China, Malaysia, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the Galapagos Islands, the Trans-Siberian Railway and Mongolia - to name some and not to mention the various trips across the Channel. His last trip was with nephew Peter and his Russian lady friend to Moscow where they experienced a Russian New Year Party!
Joyce and I have a tremendous task in front of us as Keith left thousands of slides packed ready to show, hundreds still in their boxes, other hundreds of photographs on his computer and thousand upon thousands of loose photographs.
Keith organised so many things, quietly and without fuss - but his way. He was President of the Croydon Section of the East Surrey DA of the CTC and until the last couple of years he organised the "40 plus" elevenses and lunch venues. He always gave the impression that he didn't know what he was doing but he mastered the computer and corresponded with friends and family world wide.
He had traced his family back into the 1600s visiting record offices, churches and sifting through census and local history files.
Keith filled every day. If he wasn’t on the computer he was travelling about and above all he would be talking to everyone. His knowledge of foreign languages was minimal but everyone understood him and he made and kept friends throughout the world.
He will be missed by an awful lot of people for a long, long time.
Tributes to Keith
Paul Coan tells me he has sent emails to our French cycling friends in the RAC Rouen informing them of Keith's death.
Here are some of the replies he has received from them:
Robert Bellini Phlippe has just informed me of the death of Keith. I am very sad to lose a friend. Over the years, each second weekend of September, that was always a pleasure to meet him either along the banks of the Seine or those of the Thames. I will remember his helpful nature and his great dedication. He embodied the joy of living for his passion.
Philippe Simon I heard this morning the really sad news. I will miss him for his constant good humour and his dynamism of energy. I wish your club and our English friends all the best in overcoming this ordeal. With sad thoughts to all.
Jean-claude Morin I was President of the RAC from 1985 - 98. I got to know Keith when I met him for the last time at the Semaine Federale in Aurilla four or five years ago. I had the pleasure of meeting you (Paul) and members of the Croydon CTC and chatting with Keith each year at the Rives de la Seine and at Gatwick. He was always very happy and if he had any worries he didn't let them show. I will always have tender thoughts of him as an agreeable and sympathetic person. With friendly wishes to all my English friends I've met from 1978 until now.
Philippe Pompili This short note is to tell you that I have informed RAC members with much sadness of the death of our friend Keith. In our eyes he represented the joy of life, always smiling. It is the loss of a character with whom we loved to chat in his funny franglais. The RAC members as well as other colleagues whom he looked after present our sincere condolences to all his family and to his many friends. He will always be remembered by our local groups. Sincere wishes.
Daniel Peley We share with you the sadness of Keith's final randonnee. We will always have a memory of his permanent smile, even in the effort of riding his velo.
And on a more local note, here is a tribute published in the Croydon Advertiser on March 27:
"Addiscombe CC were out in force last weekend but they raced under a cloud after the club announced the death of senior member Keith Wawman. Keith joined the club in 1946 and was a regular at the cafe on the club run for as long as anyone could remember. He always had a friendly word for anyone interested in cycling and he was often seen on race day offering encouragement. Keith had a big hand in helping with the club dinner and showed a true spirit of adventure, jumping on the Trans-Siberian Express for a holiday while in his seventies. George Brent provided the perfect club tribute to Keith, shouting for him and pointing to the sky as he crossed the line to win the Surrey League race at Dunsfold last Sunday."
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