Sadness as Bernard who was reunited with childhood friend thanks to note left in WW2 book dies aged 93

A “kind and gentle” man with a “great sense of humour” who made headlines last month when he was reunited with his childhood friend after a fateful note found in a World War II book has sadly died at the age of 93.

Bernard Duff, 93, from Scunthorpe, died on Tuesday, October 10 surrounded by his family, following a short illness. He leaves behind a son and daughter, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and many friends who loved him.

In September, widower Bernard was featured on Scunthorpe Live after discovering a note tucked inside the cover of a book about the Second World War that he bought the day before from the charity shop.


Upon inspecting the note, which was written in 1942, he realised it was written by his childhood neighbour, Barbara Donald (nee Godden), who lived three doors away from him on Hornsby Crescent when they were kids.

Desperate to reunite the note with Barbara’s living family members and thinking she was no longer alive, Bernard spoke to Scunthorpe Live in a bid to get in touch with them.

Bernard has been described as a 'kind, gentle and selfless' person who put everyone before himself
Bernard has been described as a ‘kind, gentle and selfless’ person who put everyone before himself

He said at the time: “I just couldn’t believe it. I was showing it to my carer and I said, ‘She lived three doors away from me’. I’d like to find her, but I have an idea that she might not be with us. I’d like to find her family and give the note to them because it’s a piece of history.”

Amazingly, the day after the article was published, Barbara’s son got in touch to state that Barbara, 94, was very much alive and well, and was keen to reunite with Bernard. Just days later, the pair were able to reunite for the first time in 40 years, and spent hours reminiscing about their childhood years – even sharing a kiss.

Barbara and Bernard on the day they were reunited
Barbara and Bernard on the day they were reunited

Over the next few weeks, Bernard and Barbara got together a number of times and developed a beautiful bond, with Barbara sitting by his bedside in his final days after he became poorly.

Bernard’s daughter, Allison, told Scunthorpe Live: “He was very kind and gentle, had a great sense of humour and didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody, he was one of the good guys.

“He was incredible, he was really young at heart. Even when he was in pain, throughout his life, he’s always tried to make everybody else feel better and tried to make us laugh.”

Bernard and Elva with their two children, Christopher and Allison
Bernard and Elva with their two children, Christopher and Allison

Speaking about Bernard’s younger years, Allison said football was a “massive part of his life”, playing for both Brigg and Scunthorpe and even having a trial for Arsenal. Amazingly, Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph reporter Percy ‘Stroller’ Godden – who just happened to be Barbara’s father – wrote about Bernard for the newspaper during his footballing career.

Together with his late wife Elva and friends Margaret and Mick, Bernard enjoyed holidays in an incredible 70 countries over the years, including Canada, Thailand, Singapore, Mexico and Cuba.

When he retired, Bernard joined the Scunthorpe Male Voice Choir, singing at the Baths Hall with Lesley Garrett and even performing across the pond in the USA. Gardening was his main passion, Allison said, and he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Bernard was a doting grandad - pictured with late wife Elva and their four grandchildren
Bernard was a doting grandad – pictured with late wife Elva and their four grandchildren

Allison continued: “[Reuniting with Barbara] brought so much excitement into his life, it really did. It was a bit of an adventure for him. It would’ve turned into a lovely friendship and they would’ve gone out and had meals out and spent a lovely time reminiscing, they go back a very long way. It was just taken away from them.

“I feel sad that they never had that chance, they’d only just scratched the surface on what each other had been doing. It did make him very happy, I don’t know any other way to put it, it was just a lovely thing to happen to him at this stage in his life.

Bernard in his younger years
Bernard in his younger years

“You get to that age, and you don’t expect to strike up a lovely friendship like that. There was no reason why Barbara wouldn’t still be with us but he just had that thought that she might not be with us anymore, so what unfolded was lovely.

“Barbara visited him in hospital, and the day before he passed, she was there. She was with him all afternoon. He wasn’t able to talk with her or anything, but she said, I wouldn’t be anywhere else, he was a lovely boy and he’s a lovely man’.”

Barbara, who lost her husband several months ago, told Scunthorpe Live that meeting Bernard again was like a “ray of sunshine”. The pair spent precious time together, and had been looking forward to the warmer months when they could sit outside in Barbara’s garden.

“It was just as though we’d been pals all the time and no time had passed at all,” she said.

Barbara and Bernard
Barbara and Bernard

“I hadn’t seen him for a number of years but I used to often bump into him when he was shopping with his wife, and we’d stand and chat for ages. When he found the note in the book, it took me a long time to work out how that note had got in there.

“Meeting him was like a ray of sunshine. He was such a happy and jokey person, and he was also a very considerate person. He was always making sure you’re alright, and he used to be like that when he was young. He’s always been a very pleasant, lovely person – the most considerate, selfless person.

Bernard as a young man
Bernard as a young man

“The first time we were together alone, we spent six hours talking about the past, and we realised what time it was and his carer came to take him home. We made each other so happy and had lots of lovely afternoons together. It was great. I’m looking on the positive side – we had that lovely time together, and it was fun, it was emotional.

“I just loved him.”

A celebration of Bernard’s life will be held at Woodlands Crematorium, Scunthorpe on Friday, October 27 at 12pm.

Original artice: https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/all-about/scunthorpe

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