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Fred Sheppard 1946-2015

If you find a friend who is always there for you, you’re extremely lucky. They exist, but they’re very rare. Fred was that rare friend. I first met Fred about 20 years ago on a Vets trip to Germany, or was it Switzerland. Anyway, we were seated next to each other at dinner. We clicked immediately, sharing the same irreverent sense of humour. This was the era of Henry’s (de Silva) Army, with Henry’s strict dress code, which we took great delight in breaking, in bizarre ways, being fined by Henry, not paying the fines, and generally being a thorn in Henry’s side.

He was a very good foilist, his name appears on most competition cups in the Midlands. But sometimes he was his own worst enemy; a couple of years ago at the Hereford & Worcester, he was fencing really well, and had reached the semi-final, and was up against a very good young fencer. The score reached 14-14, and the one minute break. Fred proceeded to do press ups on the piste instead of resting, much to the amusement of quite a big crowd. Of course when the fight restarted he quickly lost the next point.

Fred loved designer clothes and fast cars. He was the expert on style, I used to refer to him as my sartorial consultant. He loved to shop, on trips we would find time to go clothes shopping. I was more careful with money than Fred, when I found something that I liked, I would often dither over the price, Fred would say “Brian, you’ve got the money, spend it”. That was his philosophy of life.

One of the films on TV at Christmas was “Gran Torino”, there is a scene where Clint Eastwood tries to show a young Vietnamese lad how male banter works, which reminded me of Fred and me, we constantly exchanged banter, and insults. Fred often greeted me with “Brian, you old git”, and I would reply “Frederick, I’d forgotten how ugly you are”.

Others have mentioned Fred favourite party piece with the napkin and fork, I’ve tried doing it, nobody laughs, it was Fred’s look of wonder as The Orb rose and fell, that was really funny, it was typical of his self deprecating humour. My favourite party piece of his was the impersonation of the Italian fencers when they lose, his facial expressions while slapping his forehead and bald head was hilarious. Many foreign vets would greet Fred with an impersonation of his favourite flicked riposte, for which he was world famous, but no-one could do it like Fred.

Fred Sheppard

In 2010 it was my 65th birthday, I had decided on a special holiday, a trip to Savannah, Georgia. Some genealogical research had thrown up a Causton connection with Savannah, and better still I found that there was a fun fencing competition being held there at the same time, “Sabre in the Surf”. My wife was not keen on the idea, she suffers from “fencing spectator fatigue”, which opened the way for me and Fred to go. I hired a black Ford Mustang convertible for the holiday, Fred was in his element. I fenced in the competition, losing to a 12 year old girl in the DE, which Fred never let me forget. My excuse was that I lost because she was a better swimmer than me! As well as fencing at the Savannah Fencing Club, we drove up to Augusta, to Dr Rudy Volkmann’s fencing club. On the way we wanted to stop for lunch, I spotted a roadside cafe, it looked a bit rundown, when we went in, it was far worse. The patron nearest the door had a bowl of bones in front of him, and was busy sucking the last remnant off a large bone, the thought that we might end up as the next day’s stew crossed our minds. As we quickly made our exit, Fred remarked that the place was full of “bone suckers”. From then on, any bar, hotel, or restaurant that I suggested would be greeted by “Brian, don’t go in there, it’s going to be full of bone suckers”. Some holidays you don’t want to ever end, we lazily drove around in the Mustang with the top down, sat in bars watching the world go by, and of course fencing, it was great..

Although we didn’t meet that often, we spoke every week on the phone, often while walking our dogs. We gave each other advice, most of which was ignored. I would tell Fred to be more hard-nosed in business, but he was too easy-going, kind and generous, and there was no way that he was ever going to change. Just before his stroke, he had made some difficult decisions, which once behind him had lifted a somewhat dark cloud. He had a little dog that he loved, and had bought a big BMW convertible.

He is survived by his daughter Emma, two grandchildren, and his son Simon.

Rest in Peace Fred.

Brian Causton

I have so many fond memories of Fred at Vets events. As well as sharing lots of laughter we had some serious chats too. Underneath his extrovert exterior Fred was a sensitive and caring man but he will rightly be remembered for the fun he brought into our lives.

When a group of us were having dinner in the GBR team hotel in Sydney (at the Vets Worlds in 2007) Fred was showing off with his fork and serviette trick. Unbeknown to him the young waiter told us he was a magician so we asked him to show us some real tricks. Fred was completely upstaged and we were all crying with laughter at his reaction. Then there was the men’s competition for the best designer socks and who can forget Fred’s misfortune with the bird in the park outside the Sydney venue after he had been ‘stitched up’ by the referee and was feeling very glum.

Fred had a very generous nature too. He wanted to see Sydney Opera House at night, as did I, but we were the only two who wanted to go out, so after having a good moan about the others we set off for the city in his hire car and found a fabulous restaurant which overlooked the Opera House and had dinner there. Fully expecting to split the bill 50/50 Fred insisted, despite my arguing, that he would pay the bill. It was not his policy to take a lady to dinner and expect her to pay. A real gentleman.

So many other memories too at other competitions and venues of Fred and his best friend Brian making us all laugh with their stories and gentle banter. Fred you were one of a kind. We will miss you very much.

Gillian Aghajan

Vets dinners will not be the same without Fred’s effervescent presence. But I will always remember him on the piste skipping forwards to draw an attack and then delivering his unique parry-riposte – a blend of prime and high quinte finishing with a devastating flick hit to his opponent’s back. It did not always come off but, when it did, this sublime move drew gasps of admiration from all who watched.

I remember a team match in Vienna in the early 1990s when we met the Russians for the first time and Fred bamboozled them all with his trademark hit. He was a delight to see in action both on and off the piste; vets fencing is a little greyer for his passing.

Malcolm Fare

Fred was a cheerful enthusiastic man who loved his fencing and I will miss his fun and presence at Competitions.

RIP Fred

Chris Hamilton

BVF dinners will be a much quieter event without Fred’s effervescence and sense of humour.

I can only say that I am sure he would not want to have hung on as a shadow of his former self. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Lawrence Burr

Very sad. He was a big character and will be missed by all.

If you are in a position, please can you pass my thoughts and condolences to his family.

Good fun fencer! I will remember him for the fun he gave us both in the two foil encounters we had at the Winton Cup.

Justin Pitman

I am deeply saddened to read this news, as I am sure everyone else who knew Fred will be. As I got to know him better I liked him more – especially his wicked sense of humour. His family must be devastated at Fred’s passing – he was always so full of life. I cannot (and probably should not) write any more now, except to say that I shall do my very best to get to his funeral.

Brian Millo

Oh no poor chap, lovely guy with a great sense of humour! He’ll be sorely missed I’m sure

Hugo Veryzer

Oh dear how terribly sad. He had seemed to be making a little progress although I knew it was a dense stroke. I have known Fred since my early fencing days in the West Midlands so I would like to go to the funeral if I can, so do let me know the details.

Debbie Taverner

What very sad news. Thank you so much for letting me know. He will be sorely missed.

My thoughts are with his family.

Sara Spence

That is such a shame. He was a real character in BVF and will be missed greatly.

Mark Richardson

Once again so soon some very sad news

I unfortunately did not get to know Freddie but knew of him and saw him at the age groups earlier in 2014. Did like the photo you had of him as the caption in the monthly letter.

Again a sad loss and for the vets. Please pass on condolences to his family.

Tracy Russen

Thanks for letting me know the very sad news about Fred.

Please pass on my condolences to the family.

Gerry Gajadharsingh

I am shocked and saddened by this news. I remember fencing him in the Shropshire open back in 1970’s. Such a lovely guy.

If possible would you pass on my condolences to his family.

Mark Thompson

I am really sorry to hear this, especially so soon after Frank. Please pass my sincere condolences to his family.

Andrew Gould

The news regarding Fred Sheppard is saddening. My condolences to the family and the fencing community.

Kola Ayanwale

I first met Fred when he joined veterans fencing, about 20 years ago. He soon became renowned for his sense of fun, famous flick hits, his passion for dancing, and he was a dedicated follower of fashion. Plus, of course, the after-dinner fork trick, which always raised a few giggles although we had seen it so many times. He managed to entertain us while fencing and après-fencing.

I have lots of good and happy memories of Fred, who revelled in the non-stop banter with his best pal Brian, and they thoroughly enjoyed all their escapades and fencing adventures in many different countries and continents.

I will certainly miss him, both on and off the piste.

Sue Church

Fred had been part of the group on many fencing events I have been on. He had a sort of magnetic quality. I found I would watch him just to see what he would do next. He always loved to entertain and make us laugh. I loved to watch him dance as much as I loved to watch him fence. He really will be missed .

Jane Hutchison

Debbie and I have known Fred since we were teenagers being taken round competitions by our parents. He was always a good fencer with a natural balance and speed but his greatest contribution to fencing was his hilarious character.

During those formative years, I wore a pair of Adidas fencing shoes. Eventually they were in bits so I got a new pair. Fred saw my new shoes and said there was nothing wrong with the last pair which my dad gave him. He wore those old shoes for years !

On joining the Vets it was always a joy having him around. He was as funny as Tommy Cooper when doing the spoon trick and his stories were hilarious.

Fred spread his joy in other circles. I went to a friend’s wedding, only to find Fred strutting his stuff on the dance floor. He was well known in local dancing circles where he similarly amused them on and off the dance floor ! Unfortunately for Fred his evening came to an abrupt end when his girlfriend pulled him from the dance floor after having too much fun with the other ladies !!!

Fred was a Peter Pan character who was always young at heart. My lasting memory of him was at the Winton Cup 2013, not fencing but dancing with Debbie and I. He was giving it all the moves, side ways foot slides, erotic pelvic thrusts with one hand in his groin and the other over his bald head while singing the chorus to Justin Timberlake !! Absolutely hilarious !!

Thanks and God bless you Fred !!

Mark Hall

I was shocked when told the news that Fred had passed away, when seeing him in hospital I was ever hopeful that he would make a recovery, maybe not the old Fred but Fred never the less.

I knew Fred for many years but it’s only been these last three years that I have really got to know him well. We started to share a room together when fencing abroad and he staying over to fence at my club every other month. He was over last August full of beans about this renewed life with his wife and excited about his future, he was fencing well with his flick hits landing and gave a salsa lesson to Emma my partner.

Fred was a great guy, full of fun but of the type that is very rare, infectious fun. When he was around and in your company everything was peaches and cream.

Lindsay Watkiss

One of my favourite memories of Fred is his version of “Singing in the Rain” round the lampost in Weinfelden which was my very first trip with the Veterans – it was a magical moment!

Lynne Bornemisza

Fred Sheppard

Fred has always been there in the Vets. Well, almost always. He had his car stolen and his fencing kit was in the boot so he was out of action for some time wondering whether to re-equip or just stay with the dancing. The photo is from 2007, Fred in gleaming new kit, back on the piste and enjoying his fencing again.

He is known for his antics at Vets social occasions. A usually quiet dinner would be interrupted by a commotion from Fred’s table. I would look up in alarm thinking a fight had broken out. Fred would be on his feet and saying in a loud aggressisve voice “I don’t think so Brian!”. And then it would quiten down again. Not for long though, Fred woud be back on his feet looking incredulous as his serviette moved through the air as if propelled by unseen and unknown forces. I don’t know how many times I have seen it but the performance always seemed fresh and very amusing.

John Mason

My own enjoyment of Fred’s company and of his Fencing achievements have already been expressed by other contributors to his Obituary page. On the Eve of Fred’s funeral, I can add only one other small, but impressive fact.

Chatting with Fred at one of our competitions he and I got to talking about competitive running, and it turned out that he and I had both been distance runners. And only when I asked him directly did Fred tell me that he had run London – in a time of (about) 2:25. Not only a stylish Fencer, but an modest Ace Marathoner as well.

We shall all miss Fred so much.

Brian Millo

I was so very sorry to learn of Fred’s passing. Fred was a born entertainer whether on the piste, the dance floor or at the dinner table. It’s impossible to think of Fred without smiling – the flick hits on the back, the “magic” trick, the catch phrase “I resemble that remark” – Fred was one of those people who made vets events such a pleasurable experience. What a huge loss to the vets.

Thanks for the memories and RIP.

Jim Philbin