Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Couple who made new life after Iran revolution

ALMOST 100 people gathered for an Iranian woman’s funeral and burial in her family’s orchard.

ALMOST 100 people gathered for an Iranian woman’s funeral and burial in her family’s orchard.

Minou Poostchi, who was 69, passed away after a short illness on April 14 at her home in St Mark’s Road, Henley.

She was laid to rest at Three Oaks Orchard, off Greys Road, on Monday, next to her husband Iraj, who died in 2008.

The couple, who settled in Henley after escaping the Iranian revolution in the Seventies, bought the land in 2001 and planted more than 1,000 fruit trees.

The orchard now produces organic apples, peaches, plums, pears, quince and medlars for the local community.

The Bahá’i funeral service, an echo of Iraj’s, was led by family friend Philip Koomen.

Readings were given by Mrs Poostchi’s children, Banny and Ali, and her son-in-law Nick Hay. Her eldest daughter Pooneh spoke about her mother’s life in a eulogy.

She said: “Most of you know mum from 1978 when we came to Henley but she was from a prominent family in Iran and had a completely different life there. Her father passed away shortly after her birth and her mother remarried into my grandfather’s family so my mother’s uncle also became her stepfather.

“When mum was young she would climb the fruit trees in the orchard and eat the unripened fruit, wondering why she got an upset stomach.

“She completed her university entrance exams but decided to go into nursing and for someone with a gentle, caring nature it seemed like the obvious choice.

“Mum and Dad had a whirlwind romance and were married in 1965. They wanted everyone to know and celebrate their union and had three days of celebrations.”

Mrs Poostchi worked as a nurse until Pooneh was born in 1967.When Banny was born with respiratory and liver problems in 1970, her mother refused to leave her side until she knew that she was going to be okay.

In 1974 the family came to the UK for Iraj’s sabbatical and Mrs Poostchi completed a midwifery course at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. On returning to Iran, she began to teach and lecture.

Pooneh said: “She was the kind of person who would be involved in several activities at the same time. She volunteered at a number of charities and was very community led, but family always came first.”

The couple’s son was born in 1977, the year before the family came to Henley on holiday. Pooneh said: “By the time we were ready to go home in September, the revolution had begun and Henley had become our new home.

“With no idea that she would ever see her husband again, Mum began to make a new home for us. When Dad joined us a new chapter of our lives had begun. Mum began making friends and started working at local groups and primary schools.”

All three children attended Trinity Primary School and Gillotts School.

Pooneh spoke of her mother’s love of nature, walking and hosting dinner parties.

She said: “Mum thought nothing of jumping into the Thames between two swans that were fighting. She also used to insist that her children behaved in a certain way.

“One of her proudest moments was when her grandson Caspar was born. She had a special relationship with him.

“She worked hard to maintain the orchard after my dad died and it was part of her life in Henley. Above all, she taught me the importance of family, love and respect.”

After the service, mourners followed the coffin from the marquee out to the orchard, where a prayer for the departed was read.

People then scattered rose petals, flowers and soil on to the coffin. Afterwards a reception was held at the River and Rowing Museum, where Mrs Poostchi volunteered.

Ali said: “Mum was a law unto herself — she was very interested in people and quickly made friends.I was always amazed at how much information she knew about somebody.

“She loved Henley and she loved the people of Henley.

“I think the orchard is the right place for her, next to her husband — they both wanted to give something back to Henley after they were force to leave Iran.”

Mr Hay said: “Although Minou was a Bahá’i, it did not matter to her what or who you were. As long as you had it in your heart to be good to other people, then you were accepted by Minou.”

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