Streets lined in tribute to Ram Mohabir, postmaster and pillar of the community
- Credit: Celia Bartlett
Hundreds lined the streets for the funeral of Ramsarran Mohabir. They came out of their houses to pay their respects to the former postmaster at East Street Stores in Saffron Walden - affectionately known as Ram.
Hundreds lined the streets on Thursday for the funeral of Ramsarran Mohabir.
They came out of their houses to pay their respects to the former postmaster at East Street Stores in Saffron Walden.
He was affectionately known as Ram.
People stood clapping along the route from Shire Hill all down Thaxted Road. Many gathered around the East Street Junction outside the shop and then along the route from East Street all the way to Fairycroft Road.
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Funeral director David Peasgood walked in front of the hearse.
Ram died of cancer aged 70 on Sunday, May 17. His funeral, with Hindu rites, was at Great Chesterford Crematorium.
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Fire chief at Saffron Walden Fire Station, Paul Curtis said: “He was a very kind man. He was always ready for a chat. He took a real interest in people.
“There are some lonely and elderly people in the community and he was always there for them,”
Customer Zoe Robinson, who grew up in Saffon Walden, said: “My grandparents went into the store almost every day.
“Ram knew everyone’s name and on birthdays he would give you a cake or a bottle of wine. He gave the children packets of chocolate buttons. He just knew everyone.
“He looked after the elderly people, he was such a genuinely lovely man. He was one of life’s good people and a real pillar of the community.”
Charlotte O’Malley, another customer, said: “I grew up in East Street. I’ve been going into the shop for about 30 years, since I was a child.
“Ram never forgot a detail. He asked about your family, your car, he remembered everything. He used to give my children sweets.
“He really took care of elderly people, made sure they got their shopping. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him.
“If people wanted to chat, he would chat to them for hours. He was such a kind man.”
Ram ran the shop with his wife, Gita. They were married for 40 years. For him it had been love at first sight.
They met when Ram was on holiday in Guyana where Gita grew up.
Gita said: “I was working for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Ram came in to change some currency. He jumped the queue and I told him that was impolite.
“I said we have a system here, you must wait your turn, you cannot go past the queue in such a rude manner.”
“That same day, he went to her parents’ house. Gita said: “Guyana has a small population, .everybody knows each other, (so he found out where she lived).
“He asked my parents if he could marry me. He had the same first name as my father and the same star sign as my mother, so they hit it off. We somehow had a fully fledged Hindu wedding within a week - and I landed up in the UK.”
She was 21 and he was 31. Did she wonder if she had done the right thing?
“Of course I did. I had no family in the UK. I thought what am I doing. It was like watching a film and I thought I am not part of it. But he was so determined and he promised my parents that he would one thousand per cent take care of me.”
An avionics engineer by training, Ram came from Guyana to the UK as a teenager in the 1960s. When the couple married, he was working in South London.
After a few years, they decided to buy a business. They moved to Saffron Walden in 1986, after seeing an advertisement in the trade magazine, Dalton’s Weekly.
Gita said: “Ever since we took root here, we have been part of the community and I’m so grateful that despite difficult times, and not just the Covid but other things, like supermarkets curtailing shopping in local shops, people have been so supportive.”
Ram was a postmaster until the Post Office closed the branch 15 years ago and the shop became purely a general store.
Ram had beaten cancer twice before. Gita said. “He got the best treatment from Addenbrooke’s and from the St Clare Hospice, who looked after him at our home. “I have no words to express how good the treatment was.”
Ram died at home with Gita by his side.
Asked how Ram would like to be remembered, Gita said: “As a friend to everybody. He got to know builders and electricians, he had so many contacts and he made recommendations to customers. He was just like a reference point, the business was almost incidental. People would say: ‘I’m going to Ram’s’ or they would be on the phone in the shop and they would say: ‘I’m at Ram’s’. He was part of the fixtures and fittings of Saffron Walden.”
Marisa Baltrock who worked in East Street Stores as a teenager on Saturdays and in the school holidays, said: “Ram was absolutely lovely. It was my first job and I was nervous but Ram was so generous. He made you work but he would bring you something to eat in the middle of your shift. He was just so kind. I think I was there for about five yeas in total.
“He always had a great interest in how I was getting on at school and gave me time off before the exams and asked how they were going. He was always genuinely interested, even after I stopped working there. He was a tremendous people person.”
She added: “I am not surprised so many people wanted to pay their respects. He was just a constant, we took him for granted. It’s shocking that he isn’t here. It’s the end of so much. The end of an era and the end of a Saffron Walden that you used to know.
Thanking people who lined the streets for Ram’s funeral, Gita Mohabir said: “It was the most touching thing of my entire life. There were a couple of family members with us who were so touched. I can’t tell you in words how much we felt, the warmth and love of those wonderful friends - not customers, I call them friends now, to see them as our friends, standing, clapping with such sombre faces.”
Gita said she had received some 160 sympathy cards, floral tributes, orchids, plants and bouquets in vases.
“People have taken the trouble to sit down and write long letters and this has brought a great deal of comfort that people have taken the time to do that.
“I have lost someone I loved but there are hundreds of people filling that space in my heart. It is touching and emotionally quenching.”
The service of Hindu rites at Great Chesterford Crematorium included prayers and flowers.