The man who read his own obituary - ‘remarkable’ insurance salesman and cricketer Alf Mace dies at 97
PUBLISHED: 15:30 11 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:44 14 January 2019
A “remarkable” Norfolk father and grandfather has died peacefully of old age - twenty years after being shocked to find his obituary had hit the headlines.
Alf Mace, of Sculthorpe, near Fakenham, died at Eckling Grange in Dereham on December 14, 2018.
The popular cricketer and insurance salesman lived another two decades after the news of his death was published in December 1998, when he was confused for another man with the same name.
His daughter, Gilly Foortse, said: “There was a man he played cricket with, who heard Alf Mace had died and thought ‘I’d better put something in the paper’.
“Dad hadn’t read it and went into the bank and saw someone who almost fainted. They said ‘Alf, I’ve just read your obituary’.”
Mrs Foortse, who is deputy mayor of Fakenham, described the mix-up as “hilarious”, and said her father was a “remarkable man” and an “amazing father”.
She said: “He was 97 and he hadn’t seen a doctor since last January.
“He wasn’t even on any medication apart from for his eyes.”
Mr Mace, was born into a family of bakers, on April 17, 1921, in Sedgeford, West Norfolk.
After leaving school at 14, he joined the family business and served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.
During the war, he met Dorothy, from East Dereham, who was stationed nearby with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).
They married in Dereham’s Methodist chapel on April 4, 1944, and went on to have three children: Elaine, Desmond, and Gilly; and later four grandchildren: Zac, India, Max and Peter.
Mr Mace later became a successful insurance salesman and joined the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society.
A series of promotions saw the couple move to Lincolnshire and Cambridge, where he became a manager and won many awards, including for top district manager in 1979.
Mrs Foortse said: “In those days they used to go and collect the policies in person every week.
“People still come up to me and say: ‘Thank god for your dad. We would never have been able to afford a house if it wasn’t for him.’
“He didn’t sell insurance for the money, he sold it for the people.”
She added: “Dad was a remarkable man. He was much-loved and played cricket for Norfolk.
“He was also a great shot and loved shooting.
“He lived a very full and fulfilling life. The biggest tragedy was mum dying aged 69.
“They never got to have the years of retirement together they had planned.”
Mrs Mace died of bowel cancer on April 5, 1993; the day after the couple’s 49th wedding anniversary.
Mr Mace later married his next-door neighbour, Betty Boyce, when he was 79.
Mrs Foortse said: “He became very close to her family and was made very welcome.”
She added: “He was blind at the end of his life, and took up bowling after losing most of his sight.
“He loved children and was such an amazing, proud father.
“He was at the heart of the church and always wore a buttonhole to chapel.
“The one thing everybody says is he was an absolute gentleman.”
There will be a service of thanksgiving and celebration at the Parish Church of St Peter and Paul, Fakenham, at 2pm on Monday, January 14.
Family flowers only, donations for either Fakenham Blind Club, Eckling Grange Care Home or Fakenham Methodist Church may be given at the service or sent c/o Fakenham and District Funeral Services Ltd., Weasenham, PE32 2TF, tel. 01328 838838.
Do you have an unusual story about the life of a relative or friend? Email reporter Jessica.Frank-Keyes@archant.co.uk