27 August 1937 - 20 December 2017
Patricia Ann Kirk Thomas was born in Luton, the eldest of three sisters. She attended Luton High School and then trained as a librarian, a reflection of her life-long love of books. She worked at Luton Technical College library, where she met our father, Ian, who was completing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. They were married in October 1958, living in Bedfordshire before moving to Cambridgeshire in 1970.
Mum relished the opportunities to be had in her new home in Kibworth. She enrolled with the U3A and helped to coordinate the distribution and delivery of the Kibworth Chronicle. She also joined the History Society, who subsequently published a book she wrote about Anna Laetitia Barbauld. She played a significant part in getting a blue plaque dedicated to Anna in May 2013, at the Old House in Kibworth Harcourt.
Mum also had involvement with the pastoral team at Gartree Prison, attended St Dionysius in Market Harborough and latterly, St Wilfrid’s, making many treasured friendships in the ten years that she spent here in Kibworth.
In 2014, Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Always the optimist, she sailed through the treatment, returning to daily life and her previous activities almost as fully as before. She was never a sentimentalist, always living in the present and enjoying whatever life threw at her. She accepted her very recent diagnosis that the cancer had returned with her usual pragmatism: “I got to 80, I’ve had a pretty good innings” and she certainly had a life well lived.
Thank you to everyone who attended Mum’s Service of Remembrance at St Wilfrid’s Church on 15 January; it was wonderful to see so many friends from past and present.
The full eulogy can be found below.
Carol McCrone and Joy Hill
27 August 1937 - 20 December 2017
A Life Well Lived
Patricia Ann Kirk Thomas was born in Luton on 27 August 1937, the first child of Edna and Ernest Ward. She was followed the next year by her sister Val and a further 6 years later by Jennie. She attended Luton High School and then trained as a librarian, a reflection of her life-long love of books. She worked at Luton Technical College library and it was here that she met our father, Ian, who was completing a degree in Engineering, sponsored by Vauxhall.
They were married in October 1958, living in Bedfordshire before moving to Holme, Cambridgeshire in 1970, when Dad went to work for Perkins Engines in Peterborough.
Village Life, Community Spirit
We all have happy memories of growing up in Holme and of the great sense of community. Mum threw herself into village life and, in the 37 years that she lived there, was a school governor for much of our time at Holme School, returning to this role again towards the end of her time in the village. She was also a trustee of the Sir John Cotton Educational Foundation for young people in the village.
A churchwarden for St Giles church for many years, Mum was also lay chair of Yaxley Deanery. In fact, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, I think our Mastermind specialist subject could have been Deanery church politics! She was also a member of the Ely Diocesan Synod, during which time she was presented to both the Queen and Princess Alice for her Church of England work at the East of England Show in Peterborough.
A member of the Yaxley Deanery clergy from that time, who sadly can’t be with us today, described Mum in an email as a “great source of wisdom and encouragement...(and was)... grateful for her diligence, her practical skills and caring heart. Pat would always greet people with a warm smile and a genuine desire to help - whether they were young or old, friend, visitor or stranger. She was instrumental in drawing together the local community of Holme and left her mark on the village in a positive and humble way”.
Mum was a member of the WI for many years and served her stint as President. She jointly ran the St Giles youth club with John and Brenda Bennett. Mum and her friend, Jenny Dickman, ran the village playgroup for several years and from which many amusing tales were told. Some, like the unintentional locking of a child in the village hall while the rest of them went off for a walk, probably best not dwelt on! I’m pleased to say that the child hadn’t noticed they’d gone; however, if there is anyone from Social Services present, Jenny is here today!
Four Becomes Three
In October 1983, our parents celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary with a rare, child-free long weekend in York. However, on 4th May 1985, our lives changed forever when Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly. Widowed at just 47, Mum was left to guide us single-handedly through exams, college, universities, first jobs, boyfriends, and ultimately marriages, as well as sickness and health, and the making of many good and bad decisions between us! A lot changed when Dad died and we came together as three friends rather than mother and daughters, and we have been a strong unit ever since. Her incredible faith undoubtedly helped her through these testing times.
As four became three, together we faced many hurdles, which Mum handled stoically with calmness and practicality. Her favourite saying being: “Illegitimi non carborundum” – “don’t let the bastards grind you down!” She has been a great friend and confidante and we always knew we could turn to her for her thoughts on any situation. We may not have always liked her interpretation, but it made us stop and consider a different perspective.
With widowhood came a feeling of ‘life’s too short’ and a newfound sense of adventure. The following year, rather than our usual holidays in Whitby or Llandudno, Carol and I were surprised to find the 3 of us booked on a 2-week holiday to Cyprus, where we were all delighted to discover the wonders of Cypriot brandy and, in particular, Brandy Sour cocktails, of which we partook most days, maybe even hours!
Mum was always an enthusiastic sampler of local produce wherever she visited and, on this occasion, we returned to Heathrow airport with more than our fair share of Cypriot brandy, no doubt looking very sheepish when we were stopped by the officious looking Customs Officer as we entered the ‘Nothing to Declare’ hall! Fortunately for us, he didn’t make it as far as the supply of brandy, on account of the upper layers including a wet nightshirt, returned to us by the hotel that morning, at least a dozen Cypriot oranges, and several leaking and very sticky jars of honey purchased at a monastery in the Troodos Mountains!
The following year, we had an even more amazing holiday to the eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada. Not an art gallery was left unvisited nor a tower left unclimbed! Mum particularly loved Italy, where she went several times, and also to Spain, on garden history and cultural study tours after Dad died. She preferred to travel on her own and meet new people. We admired her bravery, but it was typical of her positive outlook and pragmatism, and also of her contentment with her own company on occasions. She felt she could please herself and didn’t need to speak to anyone if she chose not to. It goes without saying that she invariably returned with gifts of Seville marmalade or Italian grappa!
New Challenges, New Opportunities
At this time, Mum threw herself into new activities to keep herself busy. She decided to return to work for the first time since her marriage, first of all with a part time job in the Admiral Wells pub in the village, although we don’t recall her pulling too many pints!
Mum was a strong believer in social justice and fighting for the underdog and, after finding her confidence in the world of work again, she commenced training as a volunteer with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and became a debt counsellor for them. It was here that she became friends with a solicitor, Indira, who was also volunteering. Indira decided to set up her own practice and Mum naturally became her clerk, forthrightly tackling the legal system together for a number of years.
She joined the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies and enjoyed helping with a project restoring and cataloguing textiles at Peterborough Cathedral. When an opportunity arose with the Patients’ Association at Yaxley Group Practice for someone to set up a patients’ information service, Mum jumped at the chance. She set up a fantastic medical lending library for the patients to access, utilising her earlier training. She also provided the unique service of representing patients at benefits tribunals, for which her CAB training was invaluable. She won 21 of the 24 and boy was she miffed at losing the other 3! It was during this time that she was also instrumental in setting up the Age Well Club at the surgery, which still continues today, having just celebrated their 25th anniversary, which sadly Mum wasn’t well enough to attend.
A Wicked Sense of Humour!
Many of you have commented that Mum was a witty raconteur and she had a bank of humorous anecdotes from Age Well Club outings, usually to places she fancied seeing. I particularly remember her telling one about a trip to Shuttleworth where elderly ladies kept collapsing in 35 degree heat, although I think the numbers affected may have had poetic licence applied with each re-telling!
Within the family, Joy and I, and our aunts and their families, remember well how her stories were embellished for comic effect, and with every extra glass of sherry! She was amused when Tom Davies, then senior partner at Yaxley Group Practice, said that he looked forward to reading her tales in her memoirs! I’m sorry to say, Tom, that we haven’t as yet located them, although she was a voracious diary writer all of her life, so they may well yet materialise!.... along with the address book!
Mum had a great sense of humour and could be relied on to come up with a tongue in cheek comment. Even in her final week, our cousin Graham told us that, on visiting her in hospital with Val, they arrived to find a tired looking Mum being wheeled off for an ultra-sound scan. On her return, sometime later, she had brightened up dramatically which he commented on, to which Mum replied: “I know, it’s amazing what a liver scan can do! I would have had one ages ago if I’d realised it would have this effect!”
A Loving Grandmother
Mum was immensely proud of her 3 grandchildren, Isabel, Sophie and Tom and, in 2007, she made the move to Kibworth to be closer to Joy, Dave and Issy, helping out with after school care and school holidays. She was thrilled that both Sophie and Tom are excelling in their chosen sport of rugby, playing for Mansfield Under 15 girls and Mellish Under 11 boys respectively. And very proud that Isabel has inherited her grandmother’s love of books and history, recently securing an unconditional offer to read English Literature at Lancaster University.
She was a fantastic Grandma and all three grandchildren have their own fond memories of her. I can clearly visualise Sophie shaking her head and saying “Oh Grandma, Grandma, Grandma!” and sharing the amusement with her when she had failed to get down ‘wid da kids’. Or Tom’s enthusiastic “Come along Grandma” as he grabbed her by the hand and whisked her away to play a rather lengthy, imaginary game, for which much endurance was required. Mark and I were always relieved to share those out a bit! Isabel and Mum shared many visits out together over the years, most recently to Burghley House to soak up some history.
Grandma’s view was that she wasn’t paid to do confrontation with the grandchildren, that was our role! Consequently she was their mate and regularly in cahoots with them, slipping them contraband and conspiring for their good!
She also spent many happy holidays with Carol, Mark, Sophie and Tom and visiting the Mediterranean and the four corners of this country. We were also lucky enough to go to the 2012 London Olympics twice, which I know Mum was really thrilled about.
All 8 of us enjoyed a fabulous weekend at Center Parcs over the August bank holiday weekend last year to celebrate her 80th birthday. We all have fantastic memories of a lovely time and even the weather came up trumps! We were all planning to take her to the Somme at Easter to see her Grandfather’s grave. Sadly she won’t now be making the journey, but we will still go in her memory, and it will be all the more poignant.
Making A New Home in Kibworth
Throughout all of her life, Mum embraced new ventures with a ‘can do’ outlook, and relished the new opportunities to be had in a village such as Kibworth. She fell in love with her beautiful cottage as soon as she saw it, devoting hours to her garden, where she enjoyed feeding the birds and seeing the lambs in the field opposite. Settling quickly in to Kibworth life, she immediately joined the U3A. She particularly enjoyed the walking group and even led some of the walks, and took the opportunity to fulfil a life-long ambition to learn Latin. She helped with the distribution of the Kibworth Chronicle and also joined the History Society, giving lifts to other members of the group. She gave several talks and helped with transcribing memorials at Kibworth Cemetery. But her greatest achievement was the research that she undertook into the life and literary works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, writing a book that the Society published, and playing a significant part in getting a blue plaque dedicated to Anna in May 2013 at the Old House in Kibworth Harcourt.
Mum's passion for books of all genres made her a regular visitor to Debbie's bookshop, where the two of them shared the latest recommendations, Debbie always willing to order in new publications that Mum wanted to road test. Mum also enjoyed regular coffee meetings in The Well, and had recently discovered the delights of Kibworth's newest gift shop, No 56, while there was always a friendly face to chat to in the Co op and Post Office. Up until last autumn, she walked to the paper shop every day, at which point she decided that it made sense to have her papers delivered instead - heaven forbid she missed out on her daily fix of Sudoko and crosswords!
Mum also had involvement with the pastoral team at Gartree Prison, and attended St Dionysius in Market Harborough, where she also thoroughly enjoyed several years as a Saturday welcomer, chatting to visitors to St Di’s. She always reported back to us where that day’s visitors had come from and their thoughts on Market Harborough, often recommending other places for them to visit or tea shops to sample.
More recently she began worshipping regularly here at St Wilfrid’s, particularly valuing the Wednesday Daily Prayer sessions, with her special group of soul mates. Mum undoubtedly made some much treasured friendships in the ten years that she spent here in Kibworth, many of them here today.
A few things you might not have known about Pat:
In 2014, Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Always the optimist, she sailed through the treatment, returning to daily life and her previous activities almost as fully as before. In all of her 80 years, she was never a sentimentalist, always living in the present and enjoying whatever life threw at her. She accepted her very recent diagnosis that the cancer had returned with her usual pragmatism. As she would no doubt have commented to many of you in recent weeks “I got to 80, I’ve had a pretty good innings” and she certainly had a life well lived.
Thank you to everyone who attended Mum’s Service of Remembrance at St Wilfrid’s Church on 15 January 2018; it was wonderful to see so many friends from past and present.
Carol McCrone and Joy Hill