Frank Henry Glanville obituary

Images above: Frank Glanville in celebratory mood; with his wife Maureen

Frank Henry Glanville, born 6 January 1934, died 30 September 2022

Obituary by Julia Langdon

Frank Glanville, who has died aged 88, was a man who saved people’s lives. He did so – literally – for most of his working life as a member of the London Ambulance Service for over 30 years, retiring with a distinguished record both on the road in active service and thereafter as a station office manager.

In retirement he saved even more lives – but this time it was figuratively – as a one-man chauffeur who could always be relied on for rescue in a crisis.

Frank made the wheels go round for everyone. He took people shopping – and if they couldn’t manage on their own, he did the shopping for them. He drove old people to hospital and sometimes young people to appointments their parents couldn’t manage. He took expectant mothers carefully to the clinic and he brought their new born babies home.

He would take travellers to the airport and brides to the church. He was always punctual but he would wait without complaint if his fare was late. He had the patience of the saint that he was. He was kind and sweet and always pleased to see everyone. He had a smile that came from the bottom of his heart.

In a tribute to Frank his (unofficially) adopted son, the Welsh musician Steve Balsamo called him “a proper old school gent” who never lost his cool and was always level-headed.

“He used to say to me: ‘Never panic unless you have to – and you’ll know when that time is – as it’s a waste of time and energy’.”

Many of the memories of Frank posted on the London Ambulance website reference his reputation as “a true gentleman”. His appointments in the service included working at St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, as an officer at Waterloo Station, and as a station officer in Fulham and Isleworth.

His own fund of stories included rescue work at the horrific Kings Cross fire in 1987, taking Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull to hospital after what he described to Steve Balsamo as “a drug-fuelled domestic” and trying to save Judy Garland from herself during what was to be her last stay in London for her final shows at the Talk of the Town.

Frank had been called many times to take the legendary singer to the Priory in an attempt to help her overcome her addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs; and it was he and a colleague who were called to her Belgravia house when she died as a result of an accidental overdose. Frank told Steve: “She was tiny, like a little bird, but still very beautiful.”

Frank and his beloved Maureen lived in Geraldine Road, Strand on the Green, for as long as anyone could remember. Maureen was the indefatigable receptionist at Strand dentists, who ran the show with an unflappable charm and occasional help from Frank on technology issues. They both loved their work and lived for each other.

They had no children of their own but they were wonderful with those of others. They had countless friends in the neighbourhood, in the street and in the ambulance service; friendships they nourished with warmth and hospitality.

And then Steve and Tracy Balsamo moved next door and into their lives. Frank used to say that Steve, the singer and songwriter, famed for starring in the 1990s London production of Jesus Christ Superstar, was the son he and “Mo” would like to have had.  Steve called Frank his second Pa.

After Maureen’s death in 2016, Steve and Tracy looked after Frank, who became as much a part of their family as their children Issy and Frankie – who was named in Frank’s honour. When it was no longer practical for him to stay in Geraldine Road or at home in Wales with Steve and Tracy, he moved to Glasfryn House, a care home in Swansea.

And when he could no longer go to Annies or the Bell and Crown for a steak, he went to Verdis in The Mumbles, Swansea, for a glass of prosecco and home made tiramisu. Steve kept all his Chiswick chums cheerfully in touch with a WhatsApp group called Frank’s Welsh Adventure. He died peacefully, with Steve at his side, and he was still smiling.

Julia Langdon is a political journalist who lives in Strand on the Green.

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