Thursday, June 27, 2024

A fond farewell to fellow traveler John: amiable, adventuresome friend


Yorkshire farmer and world traveler, John Speight, and his wife, Sue, enjoy a laugh with friends Bruce
 Keller, left, and Christene "Cookie" Meyers, with their dog Lola front and center at Primrose Farm.

Greatly loved, deeply missed, he enjoyed life and lived it with joy, kindness and laughter



On Palm Springs tram, John and Sue are framed by
Keller and Cookie on the world's largest revolving tram.
have been our friends and fellow travelers for nearly a decade.
Our friendship began at a table for six aboard a Celebrity cruise in Southeast Asia. We were relieved the third couple didn’t show up because we four immediately “clicked.”

WE CELEBRATE John's life here this week -- as his family prepares a July 3 celebration in England honoring his life. Sadly, John, 81, lost a ferocious battle with esophageal cancer which was diagnosed before last Christmas. He fought heroically in perhaps the only struggle he ever lost. 

Sue, Cookie, John and Bruce share a tuk-tuk
in Bangkok, where they spent time touring.
 we had much in common early in our friendship:
love of nature, fondness for cruising and travel, a yen for adventure and discovery, an affection for dogs and horses. The two were considering a trip on the Mexican Riviera, so we invited them to our home in San Diego. And when they learned we had a Montana summer place, they were elated. "Yellowstone Park is on our bucket list," John exclaimed, clapping his hands.
As our similarities accumulated, we found we both owned Yorkshire terriers. We had Nick and Nora, and they had Bridget, one of a long line of Yorkies they've owned and loved. They also had a bull mastiff, Lola, whom we would meet soon, just as they would greet Nick and Nora in visits to both Montana and California.

Sue and John Speight have a smile
and a laugh before an outing.
John’s kindness extended to his human circle and all creatures great and small. On the last leg of a mile-long hike, little Nora stopped, sat down on the trail and barked to tell us she was tired. John scooped her up and carried her to the car.
 He was generous, but frugal. He liked a good price, like me. He loved when I secured a 30 per cent discount at pricy Lake Hotel in Yellowstone, claiming he and Sue were fellow travel writers.

TYPICAL OF this big-hearted, full-throttle man, he opted for the "full Monty" treatment for his cancer, undertaking a grueling battery of radiation and chemotherapy, dozens of hospital visits, doctors and consultants -- all the ups and downs that come with life-threatening illness.
We shared many good times with John and Sue, and we will keep her in our circle of friends, one of the luckiest meetings of our travels.

Bruce Keller, Sue and John Speight with Bridget spent
 a day touring Yorkshire's beautiful abbeys and monasteries.

, they shared their love of their native land in visits to Yorkshire's beautiful abbeys and castles. We shared the pleasures of a century-old steam train, a night at the theater in Richmond, and we four journeyed to the depths of a coal mine. In the U.S., we visited state and national parks, took back roads to show off our western farm and ranch land, introduced them to favorite hotels in Red Lodge and Palm Springs, enjoyed a Frank Sinatra tribute concert and in Las Vegas, a mesmerizing Cirque de Soleil show.
In Yorkshire, John guided a tour of the couple's egg processing operation and the two told stories of rain-soaked rescues of confused chickens. "Well you just grab them by the neck, five at a time. Right as rain they were," John said, as we listened wide-eyed.
John, Cookie with Nora, Sue and Nicky, and Bruce
exploring on the trail in Yellowstone National Park.

WE'D HOPED TO welcome them back to Montana after John's full recovery.
 It was obvious that John and Sue loved one another – adored is a more apt description of their relationship. Like the two of us, they laughed a lot, poked gentle fun at one another and finished each other’s sentences.
Speaking of language, John and Sue taught us a whole new vocabulary. Despite my English degrees, I achieved a new level of linguistics when I added these charming “Yorkshirisms” to my vocabulary: “donkey’s years, proper gander, right shuffed, crickey, Bob's your uncle and our favorite: gobsmacked."
John Speight enjoys a birthday surprise
during one of many American visits, here
at La Casa del Zorro, Borrego Springs, Ca.

JOHN PUT his heart and soul into beating the odds, but this kind hearted Yorkshireman crossed the finish line sooner than we all hoped. He leaves a legion of friends and a devoted family, a legacy of love and kindness, and memories of his Yorkshire practicality and wit and a sense of fun. 
We are thankful our paths crossed for a delightful decade of shared love of family, nature, travel, dogs, horses, the occasional stiff G&T, tours of both our home turfs and a cherished, enduring friendship. Thank you, John’s family, for the privilege of asking us to participate from afar in the July 3 homage at 2 p.m., White Syke Fields, Sand Hutton, Yorkshire, a much loved venue for a much loved guy.
With this homage, we are there.

The Statue of Liberty is a glorious sight, here from the Queen Mary 2,
as she entered the harbor to dock in New York City. 
No sight is more beautiful after two months traveling abroad, then Lady Liberty. We set our alarm at 4 a.m. as we cruised into New York Harbor on Queen Mary 2. The captain had announced the arrival time the night before and we didn't want to miss it. For July 4, we celebrate our country's most beautiful monument and nearby Ellis Island Museum. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on friendship, travel, nature, family, the arts and more:


  1. We've enjoyed your stories of travels with John and Sue, from here in the south of England. Wish we'd had the opportunity to know him. Such a nice piece.

  2. Our surname is spelled with an a not e but somewhere we are likely related. Lovely piece and photos.

  3. He looks like a charming fellow.

  4. Friends in LondonJuly 4, 2024 at 8:47 AM

    We have followed your posts on this lovely man and wish we'd known him.