The longest serving verger in the Guildford Diocese, Michael Bowler, of Abinger Common, has died after nearly 60 years caring for St James's Church at Abinger.
Mr Bowler, 73, - of Evelyn Cottages, Abinger Common, was a teenager when he was made verger during the last war. On the 50th anniversary of his appointment he received a special long service certificate from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As a fireman, in a reserved occupation, and when almost everyone else in the parish away in the armed forces, he found himself virtually the only available person left to fill the role.
He was closely involved in the high drama in the last days of the conflict when St James's took a direct hit from a doodlebug or flying bomb. Luckily no one was injured although the church was virtually wrecked. Had it struck a few moments earlier the pews would have been full of people attending communion. After the war, and with building materials hard to come by, the church was eventually restored.
However, tragedy was to strike once more. A bolt of lightening hit the steeple and the whole process had to begin again. Mr Bowler, who later worked for the railways, had been recovering in Dorking Hospital after suffering a stroke in the summer. He died a fortnight ago and his funeral was held at St James on Thursday of last week. He leaves a widow and a son and daughter.
Mr Bowler had lived all his life in the village where he was born. His father was chauffeur at one of the big houses, Mark Ash. In a tribute to him, churchwarden Tim Prideaux, said this week: "He was a totally efficient, loyal servant to St James for more than half a century. It is now taking a team of us to do what he did on his own. He was a lovely, quiet peaceful man."
From the Dorking Advertiser, 29th December 1999
See article in Parish News April 1991