A Humanist Funeral Ceremony

to celebrate the life of

Ali Adibi


20 March 1920 Š 9 March 2008


Beloved Husband, Brother, Uncle and Cousin







Held at


Gunnersbury Cemetery


2.00 pm  Tuesday  18 March 2008










Led by


British Humanist Association Officiant


  Lailan Young


54 Bedford Court Mansions

Bedford Avenue

London WC1B 3AA








Mozart     Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major  (adagio)

                Orchestra of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon

                    Maria-Joao Pires,  piano


We meet today to remember together and to celebrate the life of Ali Adibi, who died on 9th March. He was 87.


Ali did not keep to any religious rituals, and he didnÕt like fuss, so a traditional funeral service didnÕt seem right for him. My name is Lailan Young, and I am here from the British Humanist Association to conduct this ceremony for Ali.


There wonÕt be any prayers or hymns or ritual in the ceremony Š instead IÕm going to talk a little about AliÕs life and his personality, based on what IÕve been told by his family.  Mahmood will make a tribute to his brother, and Iraj - in honour of his brother -  will read from Omar KhayyamÕs Rubaiyat.


WeÕll hear some music and poetry which Ali would have enjoyed, and thereÕll be time for reflection or for private prayer as well.  I hope that, whatever your own beliefs are, you will find this Humanist ceremony a fitting and a personal way to say goodbye to Ali.


The Humanist philosophy is an approach to life based on humanity and reason. Humanists see life as being very precious because we have only one life, and it is here on our planet Earth, now.  It is up to each of us to live life fully, help others find happiness and fulfilment, and do our best to make the world a better place.


We all have to live with the knowledge that everybody must die. Most of the time we can push thoughts of death out of our minds, and though Ali had a good life for most of his 87 years, his leaving still fills us with immense sadness. Each human life is unique, and if you look around the world we live in there is no one quite like the one you

have lost.


Our thoughts today are especially with AliÕs beloved wife, Dorothy. But for all the hurt and pain and sadness at losing your husband, brother, close relative and friend, this is also a very precious day, an opportunity to remember Ali, to do him justice, to recapture his personality through your shared memories, and above all, to be glad that he played an important part in your life.


I should now like to invite Mahmood Š who describes himself as AliÕs kid brother Š to give his tribute to Ali, who was born on 20th March, 1920, in Isfahan.


Mahmood speaks


Thank you for joining us in our grief.


Ali Adibi was 16 years old when our father passed-away and overnight he had to assume responsibility for his five brothers and sisters. My father had planned to send him to the American University in Beirut. This had to be cancelled.


He completed his studies at the High School with flying colours and received a country-wide Gold Medal for a First Class Degree in General Science. At High School he translated a book on ŅMontezumaÕs DaughterÓ and published it in 500 copies.


He then joined The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, working in the Drawing Office in M-I-S.  Within two years he was selected to go to Loughborough College, in Nottinghamshire, to study Civil Engineering. But the Second World War broke out and that ended his UK Scholarship.


He then started his Military Service in the Artillery Division, spending one year in the OfficersÕ Training Corps in Tehran, and for the second year as a lieutenant  was assigned to south-western Iran. While there, Allies invaded Iran and he was wounded in a short resistance with the British Army.  He later was assigned to quell the uprising by the Bever-Ahmadi tribes.


After his military service he returned to Tehran and registered at the Technical University of Tehran to study architecture. He joined an export-import business to support his brothers and sisters.


In 1944 the export-import company assigned him to New York City as a representative. The war was still on, so he took a freighter from the Persian Gulf, sailed around South Africa, crossed the Equator twice and arrived in NYC. He registered in Columbia University in Architecture. At Columbia he received the degrees of BSc 1st class with honour, MSc and PhD with distinction. His thesis was on Town Planning and he received the UniversityÕs top award and $4,000.    


One of his Term Papers that he was proud of was on an improvement on Quanats, or the Old Persian irrigation system. While at Columbia the export-import office was closed in New York City and he had to freelance in a number of jobs in NYC, subtitling American Movies into Persian, and participating in the Voice of UN. 


In 1955 he joined the United Nations as a Town Planning expert and was assigned to Cairo Egypt and later Amman Jordan.  In Amman he met the love of his life, Dorothy Nicholson and they were married later in New York City.


In 1960 they moved to Tehran and Ali established Ali Adibi and Associates, where he had about 250 engineers engaged in town planning, low-cost housing, road building and port expansion. He also established and chaired The Civil Engineering Society of Iran.


In 1980, Dr. Adibi offered a low cost housing plan to the Islamic Government of Iran, free of charge. It represented considerable engineering effort. It was not accepted. So Ali and Dorothy settled in London where they enjoyed their golden years.

They had just celebrated their Golden Anniversary.


We shall miss you dearly, Ali, beloved husband, brother, uncle and cousin.  


Thank you, Mahmood for your tribute and the description of the day when Ali, the brilliantly qualified, handsome young man, met Dorothy, who was attached to the British Embassy in Amman.


At a meeting a few days ago in Cadogan Gardens with Mahmood, DorothyÕs sister  Kathleen, and Bill, a friend of Ali, each declared that Dorothy was the love of AliÕs life. He absolutely adored her and would, they agreed, do everything possible to please her.


Now, letÕs go back to 1982, when Dorothy and Ali were reunited in London. Although Ali had not entirely ŅretiredÓ, he was, in fact,  waiting for the Revolution to end. But, as Dorothy said, Ņthe mullahs didnÕt want low-cost housing from a man of goodwillÓ.  So London was to be AliÕs home, after all.


He could have settled in the United States, assured of a Green Card, but he didnÕt want to.  It seems his fondness for the British Š exceeded his respect and admiration for the United States.


Ali maintained a passing interest in American politics and

developments in Iran and the Middle East. His newspapers were the Independent,  the International Herald Tribune, and a Persian weekly, which was delivered to the home. He found Time magazine good for current affairs, too.


Ali enjoyed reading biographies. His hero was Winston Churchill and he devoted a lot of his leisure time to reading books and papers and watching television programmes about Churchill.  He  listened to tapes of ChurchillÕs speeches, too.


Tennis was AliÕs favourite sport. He played to win - not just a match, a set, or a game. As his tennis pal and friend, Bill said:  ŅHe chased every ball to win every point. And he argued, yes! and how!  You were an object to be conquered. He could stand in the middle of the court and move only two paces to the left or the right, and return every ball.  He was very difficult to beat.Ó


AliÕs attitude to a game of tennis was evident in his outlook on life:  that is, a single-minded pursuit of a goal. He could be stubborn, which many would agree was a requisite to success. He was an honourable and generous man, giving to a number of charities including Oxfam, Cancer Research, Age Concern and Save the Children.


And he had a dry and wonderful sense of humour. Dorothy showed us a photograph taken by Mahmood in a London restaurant.  It shows Ali kissing DorothyÕs pretty hand. Now, Ali used to tell everyone that he was on his knees in front of his beloved wife, but Dorothy said Ali was actually sitting down and she was standing up.


Ali enjoyed a game of chess or bridge, and he especially liked classical music, in particular works for the keyboard.


He once tried his hand at cooking by first tying a large white handkerchief around his head -  perhaps as a token replica of a chefÕs toque  -  then he set about following a recipe for muffins, but by the time he added spices, herbs and bits of this and that which he found in the kitchen cupboards, the muffins rose up brilliantly thanks to the 23 ingredients puffed up inside them.  AliÕs tennis friend, Bill, was to call him the King of Muffins.


I would now like to invite Iraj to read two quatrains which he has chosen from Omar KhyyamÕs Rubaiyat.


Iraj reads from the Rubaiyat.


Thank you, Iraj.  And now, Iraj has asked me to read the quatrains in their English translation.


The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,

Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a word of it.


Alike for those who for Today prepare,

And those that after a Tomorrow stare,

A  Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries

ŅFools!  Your Reward is neither Here nor There!Ó


WeÕll take a moment for reflection now  -  a time when you can think about Ali in your own way, in thought or private prayer - accompanied by the beautiful slow movement from SchubertÕs Impromptu,

Opus 142, No.3.  The pianist is Murray Perahia.


Quiet Reflection


Schubert    Impromptu  Op. 142,  No. 3,  B flat major

                  Murray Perahia,  piano


Closing Words


We have been celebrating the life of Ali Adibi. He has been an inspiring influence on your lives, and he has helped to make you who you are.

Remember the good times you had with him, talk about him often, enjoy the memories you have of him, and keep him in your hearts and minds.


The best of all answers to death is the continuing affirmation of life.  Ali would, I am sure, want you to leave here today feeling good about yourselves and good about him, remembering him with a smile.


I would like to read two poems, both by English writers, because I believe Ali would have endorsed the sentiments of the poets.


The first is by Samuel Butler.


I fall asleep in the full and certain hope

That my slumber shall not be broken;

And that, though I be all-forgetting,

Yet shall I not be all-forgotten,

But continue that life in the thoughts and deeds

Of those I have loved.



And now weÕll have Brian PattenÕs answer to that very important

question:  How long does a man live?


How long does a man live, after all? É

How long does a man spend living or dying

and what do we mean when we say, gone forever? É

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,

for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,

for as long as we ourselves live

holding memories in common,

a man lives.


In a moment we will leave the chapel as we follow AliÕs coffin outside and on to the graveside.


Dorothy has asked me to tell you that after the ceremony ends at the graveside, she would like to invite you all to join her and members of the family, for a gathering at the Hurlingham Club.


But first, to bring this part of the ceremony to an end, weÕll hear another piece of music which Ali  would have liked. It is Joseph HaydnÕs String Quartet, called ŌThe LarkÕ,  the bird whose spring  song evokes hope, joy and optimism.


Haydn    String Quartet op. 64  no. 5  ŌThe LarkÕ (allegro moderato)

              Belcea Quartet


At the graveside:


Today, we have been remembering the life of Ali Adibi.

We come now to the Committal, the moment when the coffin will be placed in the grave, and we say our goodbyes to Ali.


Here, in this last act,

with sorrow but without fear,

with love and compassion,

we commit the body of Ali Adibi

to the earth,

and we commit his memory to our hearts.


Ali will be part of this place through

the warmth of Summer,

and the cold of Winter,

through the mists of Autumn,

and the freshness of Spring,

And he will be at peace.


Thank you all for being here today.

We dedicate this spot to the memory of Ali.