Thursday, February 28, 2013
The widow of a Norwich man killed in a terrorist attack in Algeria has paid tribute to him at his memorial service in Norwich today as “my rock... my best friend”.
A single bell pealed as mourners began to arrive at Norwich Cathedral for a memorial service for the life of Sebastian John, who died following a raid on the In Amenas gas plant last month.
Friends and family arriving for the service crossed paths with pupils going about their lessons at Norwich School, where the 26-year-old had been a pupil himself.
Arriving with the couple’s eight-month-old son Ralph and Mr John’s mother Hazel Pugh, Nicola John joined more than 100 other mourners to remember her husband’s life.
“Seb was the most amazing person I ever met,” said Mrs John.
“He really was one of a kind in the best possible way and I feel so lucky to have ever met him and for him to have chosen me to spend his life with.
“I’m so proud of him for everything he did. He was my rock, my best friend, my fantastic husband and Ralph’s amazing father.”
She said she wished they had been given more time together.
“I am eternally grateful for the time we did have. We are all so lucky for him to be a part of our lives,” she added.
“Seb, you will always be in my heart and I will love you forever more.”
The service included a reading by Mr John’s brother, Oliver, a performance by the Norwich School choir and the hymns Jerusalem and I Vow to Thee My Country. A collection was also taken, which will be used to establish an annual scholarship at the school in Mr John’s name.
School friend Tom Sumner recalled how Mr John had always put others first and been there when his friends had needed him.
“I shall remember him as the boy who stood in here for morning assembly, as the boy in the blue blazer in the classroom, as the boy in our team for playground gootball, as the boy on the school bus chattering excitedly on the journey up to the games field,” he said.
“Seb was the best friend I could have wished for. He influenced me for the better – he taught me things. In his own all-too-short life, he was my friend for life. I shall never forget him.”
After leaving Norwich School, where he won a nationally recognised Arkwright Scholarship for engineering and represented the school at rugby, Mr John went on to study civil engineering at Loughborough University.
He gained a first-class degree and went on to live in Nottingham, working for an Solihull-based engineering company, until he took a job with BP last September. He had also served as a president’s apprentice with the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), one of only six in the country.
He arrived in Algeria for a training course with the company just a week before terrorists raided the gas plant on January 16, resulting in the death of around 40 hostages following a four-day stand-off.
Speaking after the service, Chris Brown, Mr John’s headmaster during his early years at Norwich School, said he remembered him not only for his academic abilities but for the esteem in which he was held by his friends.
“He was someone of great openness and great warmth, somebody who supported his friends, cared for others and who contributed a lot to the school.”
Richard Coakley, ICE president, said Mr John was someone who had “always managed to squeeze a quart into a pint pot” in his career.
He said: “Sebastian was a talented civil engineer with the world at his feet. His mild-mannered supportive nature made him a pleasure to be around and his commitment and passion for his world and his young family showed through in all that he did.”