Jurassic Park, Graduation And Goodbye To A British Icon

Kindness.  Thoughtfulness. Compassion.  Words we all know and understand and hopefully act upon as often as possible.  Yet while bombarded daily it seems with news reports of terrifying and sickening acts of violence, depravity, murder, and unimaginable human suffering from around the globe, it is hard sometimes to think that much goodness actually exists.

But it does exist.

During a recent gathering of my lovely brood, we enjoyed reminiscing about how much Eldest Son loved dinosaurs as a boy and how thrilled he was when the film Jurassic Park was released in the 90’s.  It fast became a family favourite and I’ve lost count of how many times we watched it together.

Who can forget Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of John Hammond as he greeted the visitors with the iconic line, ‘Dr Grant, my dear Dr Sattler… welcome… to Jurassic Park!’ and then later on with huge pride, ‘We spared no expense!

Watching the film back then, it was impossible to think that one day, Eldest Son would meet Richard Attenborough face to face.

By the time I prepared to move back to the UK from California in 2003 with my two youngest children,  Eldest Son was attending Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo and he had some hard decisions to make – stay on at Cal Poly or move to England with us?  He had been born in England and visited many times but he had grown up in California and his life and friends were there.

In the end, and much to my delight and relief, he decided to give adult life in England a try. So it was that he applied and was accepted to the University of Sussex where he could continue with his studies for a history degree.

By the summer of 2005, ready to graduate in cap and gown, Eldest Son was thrilled to learn that Richard Attenborough (then Chancellor of the University of Sussex) would be presenting the diplomas.

According to a news page for the University of Sussex website, it was due to his personal ties with Brighton as well as his life-long respect for education that Richard Attenborough’s ardent support of the University continued for four decades.  David Bradford writes:

It was in Brighton, in 1947, that Lord Attenborough clinched his acting breakthrough, turning in a menacing performance as a young gangster in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. Following two prolific decades of acting, he launched his career as a director with a musical critique of the First World War, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), and Brighton again provided the backdrop.’

Tragically, only six months before the 2005 graduation ceremony, he had lost his beloved eldest daughter Jane and 14 year old granddaughter (together with Jane’s mother-in-law, June Holland) in the Boxing Day tsunami at Phuket resort in Thailand. Jane had herself studied sociology at the University many years before and so it was with even greater poignancy that Richard Attenborough gave his speech at his first graduation ceremony after the disaster, telling the graduates:

Today is, importantly, a day of celebration. What happened to my family and hundreds of others should not dent your happiness, sense of achievement and right to enjoy yourselves.”

It was quite obvious to all listening that this man had been deeply traumatised by his personal family tragedy yet there he was, keeping to his long promised commitment to hand out to the young people before him their hard-earned degrees, taking the time to speak to each one, including my son, with genuine interest and encouragement.

A very proud day.  Eldest Son receiving his Degree from Richard Attenborough, University of Sussex, 2005 (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2014

A very proud day. Eldest Son receiving his Bachelor of Arts History Degree from Richard Attenborough,  Brighton, Sussex 2005
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2014

We’ll never forget his moving speech that he gave that day in Brighton and my son will never forget the thrill of his University Graduation made all the more memorable by the presence of such a wonderful man. Of course, my deep pride for my boy will also never be forgotten.

So it was with deep sadness to learn this weekend of the passing of Richard Attenborough.  Not only a famed British actor, director and producer of many other acclaimed films, not least of all Gandhi, The Great Escape (my other favourite) and A Bridge Too Far, but a member of the House of Lords and a tireless contributor to charity causes.

More importantly perhaps, it is clear from the tributes shown on television over the bank holiday weekend that he was a true, honest family man, loved and adored by all who knew him both personally and professionally.  It is plain to see that he was a man who not only knew the words kindness and thoughtfulness but he lived by them authentically with true compassion and continued to do so in light of his terrible grief so late in life.

I don’t profess to know him personally, but surely it is this legacy that he leaves behind in the hearts of his family and loved ones that will be long remembered even more so than that of his glittering film career and good works.

And as for me and my family, we will never forget those days spent huddling together on our beaten up old sofa eating popcorn and watching Jurassic Park. That, and a certain Graduation Day.

At my age the only problem is with remembering names. When I call everyone darling, it has damn all to do with passionately adoring them, but I know I’m safe calling them that. Although, of course, I adore them too.”
~Richard Attenborough~

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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79 Responses to Jurassic Park, Graduation And Goodbye To A British Icon

  1. jennypellett says:

    And he was also a lifelong Chelsea fan!
    Very sad but what a lot he packed in to his life, and what a wonderful legacy of films he’s left behind. My favourites are Cry Freedom and Ghandi – and who could not adore his performance as Roger Bartlett in the Great Escape. I think Son and I know the script of that film off by heart.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Was he really? Even better for you then Jenny! He made so many great films didn’t he? Loved him as Roger Bartlett. I was always sad at his ending though 😦 Of course we both know why we loved The Great Escape for other reasons …. 😉 Wonderful man, wonderful actor and wonderful legacy!

      Like

  2. Sherri, that is sad to hear about him. It is ironic, too, because our kids and my daughter’s friend wanted to watch Jurassic Park a couple of weeks ago, because my daughter’s 14 year old friend had never seen it! So we watched it, but it had been a long time. That is so neat that your son met him and received his diploma from him. This is a wonderful tribute you have written. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      I know, it was so sad, bless him. He lived a good life though, only days short of his 90th birthday. That is quite some coincidence about Jurassic Park and your daughter’s friend having never watched it! I hope she enjoyed it and you too after so many years 🙂 Thank you very much Patsy, I’m privileged to share this personal memory, my son adored Richard Attenborough and couldn’t believe it when he handed him his degree. A day never to be forgotten 🙂

      Like

  3. TanGental says:

    So much joy. Lovely tribute. Best moment would be the end of Oh What a Lovely War! When the three young men lie on the hill and fade to white crosses and the camera pulls back and everywhere on the rolling hills there are white crosses. Gets me every time. Silly fool (me, not him)

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  4. Denise says:

    What an amazing man and so lovely to hear about your memories entwined with your children’s growing up.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Denise, glad you enjoyed these memories. He was such an icon and Son couldn’t believe it when he received his degree from him…who would have thought it all those years ago?

      Like

  5. suej says:

    A very humane, caring and giving person… and what a richly lived life.

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  6. A wonderful tribute Sherri and it’s lovely that you have such a personal memory of him that coincides with your pride at your son’s graduation.

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  7. Beautiful tribute, Sherri! Oh…the Great Escape…such a wonderful cast of actors. Thanks for sharing the quote at the end of your post, I love it! xo

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Jill and yes, what a great film that was/is. Who can forget it and all the wonderful actors…including one in particular 😉 Glad you like the quote, I thought it summed up his wonderful personality so well 🙂 xo

      Like

  8. A beautiful story! I loved Jurassic Park – I had to read the book for a bio class in high school and then we went to see the movie. Great memories, thanks for reminding me! And sharing yours 🙂

    I LOVE the quote you put at the end of this piece — so sweet! May he rest in peace and wonder, always.

    “Life finds a way.”

    Allison xxxooo

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh what great memories of a great movie, a true classic that! Thank you dear Allison for sharing your own memories, it is a great privilege to share thoughts of this wonderful man and his life well lived. Love your quote too…’Life finds a way’. Doesn’t it just…bless you… xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a lovely post and tribute to Attenborough, Sherri. You do a lovely job of giving information and flavoring it with personal details.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so Marylin, this post wasn’t what I originally planned but you can see why it had to be done and of course, always a pleasure to be able to share some personal memories 🙂

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  10. What lovely words and memories Sherri, thank you for sharing. Although I profess to not knowing about Richard prior to reading your post, he sounds like a man who led a wonderful life. How special that you were able to intersect with his life path.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Heather! Yes, knowing how much my son adored the Jurassic Park films (and books!) he was absolutely thrilled when he found out that it would be one of his favourite actors who would be presenting his degree to him! It was a wonderful moment 🙂

      Like

  11. How wonderful Eldest Son met the great man and at graduation too. Truly exciting to shake the hand of such a talented and giving man. This is a more than fitting tribute to a special man.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanking you Tess, it truly was a wonderful moment/ This photo isn’t very clear from the scanning process but my son’s face had pride and awe etched all over it. I will certainly never forget it either 🙂 😀

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  12. Simply put this beautiful tribute to both Richard Attenborough & your Eldest Son made me cry. I still watch Jurassic Park peeking behind my fingers (if I dare!) at the scary parts. A man like Richard Attenborough lives on because of his loving, generous and caring nature. Thank you for putting this in words dear friend. xoxoxo

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…dear friend, I’m very moved by your words. Richard Attenborough was a truly genuine, caring, generous and compassionate man as evidenced by the words spoken about him. His legacy will never be forgotten by all who knew him personally, professionally as well as his fans, of which I think Eldest Son is the biggest!!
      Haha…I can see you now watching, barely, between your fingers when those raptors are attacking 😉 A great film, so many happy memories of the happy times… love to you.. ❤ xoxoxo

      Like

  13. What beautiful memories and a wonderful tribute, Sherri. Just lovely. He was a true icon.

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  14. A great tribute Sherri to a great man and what a wonderful graduation experience for your son. A special day made all the more special by meeting a man he knew as welcoming not only into Jurassic Park but into the life ahead of university.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Irene, yes, it was an amazing graduation experience, my son’s face lit up in delight and awe when he came face to face with the wonderful Mr Attenborough. Yes, you have said it all – how many times did we hear those iconic words in the film – ‘Welcome to Jurassic Park’ – and then for him to welcome his number one fan into his new life ahead. Beautifully put that 🙂

      Like

  15. Heyjude says:

    A lovely tribute with a nice personal twist. And how I love that last quote!!

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  16. I too loved the quote! 🙂

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  17. mumblypeg says:

    What a lovely tribute to a delightful man, who will be greatly missed. The Graduation day in Brighton was very memorable and moving. Love xxx MP

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    • Sherri says:

      It was a truly magical and special day wasn’t it? So thrilling in every way. I remember how moving Richard Attenborough’s speech was that day, in light of all he had gone through not so many months before and how much genuine interest he showed all the graduates. We will never forget it and Eldest Son certainly won’t…so happy for him to have experienced such a special moment 🙂 Love & hugs ❤ xxxx

      Like

  18. swamiyesudas says:

    You are right, Sherri, Goodness Exists, and that is what keeps Us going, and Keeps the World going Round! Thanks for the example, and Kudos on Your Son receiving his honours at the hands of the grand man. Love and Regards.

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  19. Rachel M says:

    Wow, how exciting to graduate at a ceremony where Richard Attenborough was presenting the degrees! He was fantastic in Jurassic Park. I loved that movie too. Still do.

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    • Sherri says:

      Great movie isn’t it? You can well imagine my son’s face when he actually got to meet his hero face to face! Thanks Rachel, it was a wonderful day in every respect 🙂

      Like

  20. Yes, Jurassic Park is such a great movie,. Loved seeing your son’s graduation photo with Richard Attenborough, Sherri. Thanks for sharing your memories and for this lovely tribute to a much admired and respected man. We shall miss him. (Love the quote. 🙂 )

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Sylvia, although the photo didn’t scan in very well so not as clear as I hoped it would be. Still, it certainly brings back wonderful memories of that very special day and I’m privileged to be able to share such a special moment here. We shall miss him indeed, a truly wonderful man. Can’t you just hear him saying that quote now? And smiling broadly with it… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. jenniferkmarsh says:

    It was a sad day to hear of Richard Attenborough’s death. How amazing for your son, though! Fancy that! The tales we call tell, eh – it’s crazy how things can turn out. What a genuinely lovely man Richard seemed to be. What an honour to meet him. And that is a delightful little quote from him, too.

    Jurassic Park scared me half to death as a kid, haha! That accursed tyrannosaurus rex and those accursed velociraptors *shakes fist*

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I know, so sad 😦 You can imagine my son’s face when he got to meet Richard Attenborough face to face like that, and at such an important and exciting graduation! It was such a wonderful moment and so touching as he gave his moving speech. A day never to be forgotten and one we could never have imagined possible years before. As you say Jenny Jen Jen, we just never know… 😉

      Haha! Yes, it was quite scary o_O I will never forget that scene when Jeff Goldblum is trapped in the car and in the distance he starts to hear the thud of the T-Rex’s footsteps growing ever closer while he watches the water in the glass on the dashboard vibrate with every stomp on the ground knowing it’s getting closer and closer….yikes!!! As for those velociraptors – they were just plain evil 😛

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      • jenniferkmarsh says:

        Oh, I can imagine indeed! I’m sure he holds such a moment dear to him. It’s absolutely crazy where life can take you, when you think about it, or what can crop up suddenly. But I guess that’s half the fun 😉

        Haha, that is such an iconic moment! Classic.

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        😀 😉 ❤

        Like

  22. Steve Rebus says:

    Fantasttic, a great tribute Sherri! Love hearing about your Sons graduation story! 🙂

    Like

  23. Julia Lund says:

    A beautiful and moving tribute, Sherri.

    Like

  24. As has been said before, this is such a beautiful and wonderful tribute to such an amazing man.
    Thank you for sharing it. His grace, as you describe it during your son’s graduation, is so touching – an example for us all to hold onto.
    Best wishes to you, Emma 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      His grace truly was a most wonderful example of courage and bravery, and the way he took his time with every student so genuinely and so obviously interested in their pursuits. A rare thing indeed. We will never forget that marvellous day. Thank you Emma, lovely to see you back here again and best wishes to you too 🙂

      Like

  25. Ste J says:

    I remember going to see Jurassic Park when it first came out as well, it was brilliant and is still great now. I love how you combine family stories with topical news, it’s like an extra dimension into the story. He was a wonderful man and it is another great loss to endure.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, it was fantastic to see it for the first time on the big screen wasn’t it? It’s the kind of film that we never tire of. In fact, I wouldn’t mind watching it again right now! Ahh…thank you Ste, I’m always so pleased to hear this knowing you enjoyed the read. I feel privileged that I have the memory of this experience to share here and to be able to pay tribute to this wonderful man. A very great loss indeed, and he will never be forgotten.

      Like

      • Sherri says:

        PS Just realised – this must mean your blogging problems are sorted? If so, yay 🙂

        Like

      • Ste J says:

        I am back now, it was me being rubbish with a new adblocker that blocked the like button.

        I remember the whole cinema going mental when the Raptor almost bit the trailing leg as they were escaping the computer room…brilliant.

        I like your style, it feels unique and that is why I am an avid if not always on time reader.

        Like

        • Sherri says:

          Such is the way of modern technology…but so glad for you it all got sorted out 🙂

          Oh yes, that was a brilliant moment…

          Wow…well, you’ve just made my day, really, really happy to know this…thank you so much. Needed that having just found out that all six of my poems were rejected for a competition..oh well, can’t win ’em all…poetry is something I dabble with so it was a long shot 😉 But still…

          As for being on time, that is never an issue (and I say that because I’m hardly on time myself!). It’s hard keeping up with everyone. Blogging is a very serious business 🙂

          Like

  26. restlessjo says:

    Here I am, Sherri! Cleaning done and tea cooked. Husband tells me that’s a priority 🙂 (his tea, naturally!) I didn’t know about Richard’s daughter and the tsunami. Nobody’s safe and nothing, celebrity or otherwise, protects you from hurt in this world, does it? What a fine man to still honour that commitment. Your son looks wonderful and you must have been bursting with pride.
    Hugs, darlin’! I know you have your share of lows. The wonderful thing about you is the joy with which you share your highs.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hoorah, lovely to see you my friend! And here I am, replying the next day…yikes!! Blogland time seems to morph into a different time zone sometimes 😉
      Yes, we do have to get our priorities right don’t we? That’s why I tend not to blog over the weekend so hubby doesn’t think I’m ignoring him…!
      Ahh…I was bursting with pride Jo, it was a momentous occasion and such an honour to have Richard Attenborough, one my son’s heroes, present the awards. There are no guarantees in life are there, no matter how rich, famous or otherwise we are…
      And thank you for your hugs…I certainly can use those about now. Things are getting better again – been a strange time, I’ve felt quite lost, but finding my way back 🙂 I’m really touched by your concern and lovely words…bless you and thank you so very much… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Imelda says:

    I am familiar with his name and who he is but your tribute is the most I’ve read about him as a person. he does seem like a wonderful person and it is sad to go such great talent and human being to pass. may he rest in peace.

    Like

  28. What a great homage to this great man, Sherri. Again I like how you tie personal life events to larger events. Your son must remember of that day and be so proud. My daughter got her diploma at Berkeley from Steve Wozniak, the partner of Steve Jobs when they created Apple. It was also very meaningful since Steve Jobs had recently passed away.
    Beautiful post, Sherri, with your signature kindness.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Evelyne, how lovely of you to say 🙂 It was indeed a day never to be forgotten, truly wonderful for my son and his very proud mum (and grandmother who was there too!). How wonderful for your daughter too! I remember when Steve Job’s died, very sad as he wasn’t that old was he? He achieved so much…changed the world most certainly…

      Like

  29. Wow! Richard Attenborough presenting your eldest son with a his degree! How special!

    Like

  30. thirdhandart says:

    What a moving tribute to Richard Attenborough, Sherri. It must have been quite an honor for Eldest Son to receive his BA diploma from such a legendary actor and director. It’s wonderful to find out that Attenborough was a kind, thoughtful and compassionate person in his private life. Thank you.
    I have to admit that the first time I watched Jurassic Park I was peeking in between my fingers during the scarier parts. But by the second or third time, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the whole movie. I agree, Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of John Hammond was perfect.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Theresa, I am honoured to be able to share a more personal side of such a wonderful man as Richard Attenborough My son couldn’t believe it when he found out who would be master of the ceremonies 🙂
      Haha….yes, it certainly was scary to watch Jurassic Park the first time at the theatre! The raptors scared me even more than the T-Rex! Great film. So glad you got to enjoy the whole thing eventually…a movie classic 🙂

      Like

  31. What an honor for your son to have met Richard Attenborough in this way. Especially as he put aside his personal tragedy to ensure that these graduates have their well-deserved celebration. WOW!

    I love your writing, Sherri. You write so eloquently and draw your reader in with a certain calmness and beauty. What talent, my friend! 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      It was a truly momentous occasion Maria, one we will never forget. Richard Attenborough was the quintessential gentleman, professional yet also genuinely caring and kind. He will be greatly missed by a generation of movie-goers, that’s for sure!
      Thank you so much dear friend for your incredibly kind words about my writing…I can’t say enough how much this heartens me to know this as I’ve gone through a very bad writing funk lately…so to know that you enjoy it so much makes my heart soar with joy, it really does. Even though I’ve no idea what I’m doing half the time 😉 Here comes a huge hug in return and my huge smile too… 😀 xo

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Charli Mills says:

    What lovely writing to pass on the legacy of kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion from one of your family’s great heroes. It’s not that we are spared pain, but that we are able to have grace in spite of it. I’m so impressed that Richard Attenborough kept his commitment despite personal tragedy AND went out of his way to acknowledge each soul he passed a diploma to. He obviously touched lives with those three attributes and you in turn can uphold that legacy living as he did.

    I also have a Jurassic Park story! (of course I do, we seem to have these connections!) My hero in the movie was not one of the actors but the man who was technical adviser–Jack Horner, paleontologist and curator for the Museum of the Rockies. They say the character of Alan Grant was based on Jack. So when I was in college (later in life as the Hub and I had three young children by then) Jack Horner gave a presentation at my college based on whether or not T-Rex would have eaten a lawyer (if you recall one of the earlier scenes where the lawyer gets picked off from the privy). It was a fun way for him to introduce his theories on T-Rex and tie it back to the movie. The answer? No. T-Rex was a scavenger, not a predator!

    Thank you for this moving tribute, Sherri! 🙂 You shine with kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…well, you are too kind my friend 🙂 I would say the very same about you Charli in the way you reach out to those of us who meet with you here in the blogging community, always ready to encourage, support and show genuine kindness too. I will never forget that…and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I feel privileged to be able to share this story about such a wonderful man as Richard Attenborough and also for my son to have been given this gift of meeting his hero face to face at such a momentous time in his young life. I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      And again, another connection, wow! Jack Horner is who my son aspired to be (not him personally, but his line of work but it was not to be…yet anyway!) and so I can’t wait to tell him your story. I absolutely love it and what a truly fascinating presentation that must have been by him. Oh I would have loved to have been there. Incredible too that that old T-Rex was actually a scavenger and not a predator…so he probably wouldn’t have gone for the lawyer after all? Haha, that was a nice little twist for the movie though wasn’t it and I remember that scene all to well! What a nasty way to go 😉 Brilliant. Charli, you’ve made my week 🙂

      Like

  33. So sorry to hear about his passing. The world grieve as we lost an amazing, talented, good and kind-hearted man whose life and works touched and inspired so many. I was a Jurassic fan too and was breathless when I first heard Richard speak as he welcome all at the park. The 90’s was my era, and love a lot of things about it as much as I love the 80’s. So many great memories. I’m happy for your son that he met Richard at his graduation. It’s amazing how destiny brings us to certain moments, people and places. If I didn’t venture to America, I would have love to live in England. So much culture, beauty and yes, good people. Perhaps one day. God bless and regards to your family.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…my dear friend, I thank you so much for your lovely message, always such a pleasure when you visit. The 90’s for me and my children was our special era too. The 80’s too were great, so many wonderful family times to remember (and of course I have one or two of my own from the 70’s too 😉 ) They are true Californian 90’s kids and we reminisce all the time about those days…
      It was a glorious day for my son and this proud mama too 🙂 Destiny is indeed an amazing thing, bringing us to these moments when we least expect it. We had no idea that one day, as we watched Jurassic Park, that my then 11 year old son would meet the wonderful Richard Attenborough in person. Truly amazing. I’m privileged to be able to share this memory.
      England welcomes you with open arms any time you might visit my friend…I know just the table where we could all sit, by the sea, with a cup of coffee and where we could share our stories, hopes and dreams until well into the sunset…how glorious that would be! God bless you and your family too and have a wonderful weekend 🙂

      Like

  34. mariekeates says:

    What a lovely tribute. It seems we lost some great actors this month, very sad

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Marie, I’m glad you enjoyed it as I do feel privileged to be able to share this memory of a wonderful man. Yes, it has been a sad time recently, a few bright lights no longer shining. It’s good to think of their legacies which thankfully live on.

      Like

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