Major Kathleen Versfeld, Mission Director at Strawberry Field, unveiled a commemorative stone today in honour of John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono and their son Sean, marking the 40th anniversary of their visit to The Salvation Army’s Strawberry Field in Liverpool in 1984. A group of Steps to Work trainees also attended the special ceremony.
The memorial stone, which will be erected at the beginning of Strawberry Field’s Path of Peace, a path that winds through the gardens where John Lennon once sought refuge, aims to honour Yoko and Sean’s legacy in a heartfelt manner. The engraving on the granite stone says: “Strawberry Field remembers with love and gratitude Yoko and Sean’s visit 40 years ago and their ongoing generosity. Give Peace a Chance.”
John used to frequently amuse Sean with tales about Strawberry Field, the setting for The Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Major David Botting, who was Officer in Charge at the time, accompanied Sean when they visited the location, which held great significance for his late father, four years after his death in 1980. After their visit, Major David Botting became friendly with Yoko Ono, who called him “the Captain.” He visited her in New York and they corresponded for several years.
Major Botting has been sharing his fascinating memories of the period and the sincere bond that was formed between Yoko, Sean and Strawberry Field as part of the celebration of this historic moment in Strawberry Field’s history. David claims that Yoko Ono tried to replicate the tranquilly and serenity she experienced during her visit by creating the now-famous Strawberry Fields in Central Park after her visit.
Since his time at Strawberry Field 40 years ago, Major David Botting has been a strong supporter of giving the youth in the community the chance to realise their full potential. The Salvation Army carries on this legacy through the Steps to Work programme. The programme, which is still in operation on the site, helps people who struggle with learning disabilities or face other obstacles to employment reach their objective of working for pay.
Major Kathleen Versfeld, mission director at Strawberry Field, said:
“We are proud to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Yoko and Sean’s visit to Strawberry Field and their generosity with an engraved stone on the Path of Peace in the gardens which meant so much to John Lennon. The success of The Salvation Army’s support for young people at Strawberry Field today is a continuation of Major David Botting’s work here at that time and it is a pleasure to reflect on this legacy.”
Major David Botting, who is now retired, said:
“When the children’s home closed, my worry was that the place would be sold. I feared that someone with no links to Strawberry Field would buy it, not honour its special legacy, and make money for themselves. Instead, I’m thrilled that we never lost the spirit of the place, and the wonderful work we had done with youngsters there. It continues now with the programmes for young people at Strawberry Field.”
“I’m also delighted to help mark this moment in Strawberry Field’s history, and to commemorate the legacy of the Ono Lennon family and the Salvation Army at Strawberry Field. Strawberry Field really meant something to Yoko and Sean, just as it did to John, and I have many fond memories of that time 40 years ago that I am looking forward to sharing with the young people at Strawberry Field.”
For more information about Strawberry Field, visit the website.