A Celebration of My Dad’s Life

John Anthony Shipperlee, whom we all know as “Tony”, was born in Leigh-on-sea, Essex, on 12th January, 1921. He was an only-child with an enthusiastic and adventurous spirit, whose loving parents encouraged him to play the piano, sing in the boy’s choir and join the boy scouts, where he was a drummer in the band and participated in numerous Drumhead parades in the Oxford area. Athletically inclined, his favorite sport at Southfield School was rugby and he was also an avid train spotter, but his artistic talent was undeniable. He loved to draw and he was rarely without a sketch pad, or far from his easel and paints.

Shortly after the start of WWII, Tony was selected to the Fleet Air Arm branch of The Royal Navy, where in 1941 he reported for training at a shore station called H.M.S. St. Vincent, followed by naval officer training at The Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Lieutenant Shipperlee received advanced training at Crail in Scotland, piloting a Fairey Swordfish, a naval torpedo-bomb dropper, and subsequently was ordered to report to The Royal Motor Yacht Club in Sandbanks, for night flying and additional sea plane training on the Walrus. During his service Tony flew a total of 14 types of aircraft  including the Spitfire, Firefly and Sea Otter. During the Arctic Convoy of WWII, he embarked in H.M.S. Sheffield, and as a Walrus pilot he catapulted off numerous times to carry out wartime duties. He loved take off and landing and his many stories are always compelling and sometimes humorous. He was awarded 5 campaign medals for distinguished wartime service, and in 2012 received number 6, the Arctic Star.

While stationed in Arbroath, Tony met his future wife, Phyllis Slack who was serving as a WREN. The two were a great match {in Tony’s words} so he proposed after only a few months and Phyllis accepted. The two were married in November 1943, and Anthea arrived in 1945. A few months later Tony was demobbed, and after completing an accelerated teacher training course, he accepted a position in Oxford as art and crafts teacher in a secondary school, during which time he authored a published book entitled “Your Book of Lino Cutting”.

Tony’s adventurous spirit resulted in a 3 year teaching contract that took his family to East Africa, where Tony was Headmaster of the Victoria Nile Primary School in Jinja, Uganda. The equator climate was ideal for outdoor activities, so the family enjoyed an active social life and experienced many exciting adventures among the African wildlife. Tony loved wild animals and eagerly captured photographs of the majestic wild animals in their natural habitats.

Two years after returning to be headmaster of a primary school in Oxfordshire, Tony’s yearning for new adventures precipitated another move … to Sydney Australia, where he and Phyllis resided for 31 fulfilling years. He first taught in a primary school in Sydney and later, after persevering through a 4 year art course at Sydney University, he graduated top of his class, securing a degree in art, which opened the door to a position as Senior Lecturer of the art and craft department at Wollongong Teacher Training College, before retiring in 1995 to settle here in Dorset. Suffice it to say that his wanderlust prevailed so besides regular trips to see Anthea, Chuck and family in the U.S., he and Phyllis enjoyed extended holidays in Canada, New Zealand and the Mediterranean.

Tony was one of the most multi-talented, skilled and purpose-driven individuals …a one of a kind. Whatever he chose to do, he not only did it well, but to perfection … and with great passion and enthusiasm, always giving 100% of his energy. His natural ability for drawing and painting enabled him to produce beautiful water colors, pastels and oil paintings, which he did from inspiration and for the sheer joy of creating something of beauty.  With skilled fingers and a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, he could create a remarkable piece of pottery, glazed in one of his own glazes and fired in the brick kiln that he built!

Tony will be remembered for his lasting impact on this earth. He was blessed with the God-given gifts of teaching others through lively conversation and by sharing compelling stories of great interest. He would command an audience in the most unassuming and humble manner, sometimes even self-deprecating, and had the ability to teach others, without them realizing they were learning! He shared those valuable gifts with everyone he met throughout his life, right up until his last day. Whether grandchild, friend, or complete stranger, an encounter with Tony’s unique and charming way of being authentically himself, left a profound and lasting impression.

Love for and loyalty to family was evidenced in his acts of devotion to Phyllis, his beloved wife and soul mate of 71 years. Despite his own age and physical constraints he cared for her himself and when he was unable, he provided continuous care for her until she passed away at home in 2015. Despite the magnitude of the loss, he doggedly forced himself, in his own words, “to struggle on”. His bravery in WWII was only surpassed by his courage in the face of recent challenges. Despite his declining physical strength, his brilliant mind was incredibly intact, his attention to detail impeccable, and he could disarm you with a mischievous, boyish grin, or make you giggle with his quirky sense of humor. He never stopped imparting knowledge and continued to share enthralling stories you didn’t want to end. His love for Anthea and family was expressed in a daily phone call initiated by him or received from Anthea. Right up until the day he passed, he enjoyed visits and outings with friends and neighbors and he loved his dedicated and compassionate team of carers, whom he considered his friends.

Tony will be greatly missed by Anthea and Chuck, his 3 grandchildren, David, Stephen and Chandra, his 5 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandsons, and many others whose lives he touched. Those who knew and loved him rejoice and celebrate his 97 amazing years of living life out loud. His legacy lives on in his paintings, his stories and through his inspirational example of living life with enthusiasm and purpose.

Isaiah 41:10, 13 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand … For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

John 14:1-4 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” (Jesus’ words)


  1. God Speed TONY with all the love of family and friends, until we all meet again.
    Leslie Tripp

  2. Anthea and family prayers for strength and courage at this difficult time. God Speed Tony To Your Love Phyllis

  3. This is such a wonderful tribute to your dad Anthea. He was well.loved and a very talented man. I am happy also to know that your mum and dad are together again. You have been a wonderful daughter to both of them, and could have done nothing more in your life to help them. Love you my dear cousin for always, love to Chuck and family too. Ingrid

  4. AWESOME my friend!! Many thanks for getting to know your Dad even better!! I so much enjoy his water color painting of our desert hanging in my dinning room DAILY & will always remember his smiling face.

  5. Thank you so much Rivets. I’m so happy you have that painting 🙂 Appreciate your kind words about my Dad so much. OOXX

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