Joan Violet Roberts
Born 06.11.1928 – Passed 01.05.2005
Aged 76 years old
Dearly loved never forgotten
Joan was born in London. She met her husband to be, Robb, when she went to
the pictures with some friends. The cinema manager, a sharp-suited young
man, caught her eye. ‘See that man,’ she told her friends. ‘I’m going to
marry him.’ And she did.
Robb was a ‘gentle giant’, according to his family. Six foot two, smart and
clean, with bryl-creamed hair, a quiet man, like the hero of the John Wayne
film Joan enjoyed. Another favourite was ‘Singing in the Rain’, because Gene
Kelly reminded her of her dad, but neither John nor Gene could hold a candle
to Joan’s real hero – Mickey Mouse. She loved Mickey, and William says she’d
have loved to be in a cartoon herself. I wonder what Minnie would have said
about that. Joan and Mickey were the same age. He made his debut in Disney’s
cartoon ‘Plane Crazy’ in May 1928. She went to Disneyland five times,
(becoming ‘notorious’, the family says, among the staff there) and even made the transatlantic journey twice on her own so she could join the Brewers for another Mickey Holiday – a dream come true.
In 1962, Joan and Robb took their family of four – Ann, Zena, Janet and Karen
– to Australia as ‘£10 Pommies’. It was brave thing to do. They didn’t know
anyone down there, but were prepared to make a fresh start. After only four
years they returned, having been sent the fare by the family, when Joan’s Grandfather was dying. Robb had been made redundant so they didn’t go back. Instead, they came to Felixstowe, where Joan’s family had settled, and she’s been here in Suffolk ever since.
Joan was a magpie. She loved jumble sales and auctions, and generally
brought something home whenever she went to one. When her collection of
bric-a-brac got too big for comfort, she started selling it. She especially
liked beads and jewellery, and was quite astute about the value of everything. She
went around all the antiques fairs with her stall, and thoroughly enjoyed
herself. If anyone in the family needed anything from an auction, Joan would
be delighted to go and bid for them.
Robb died in 1988. Joan had a letter of condolence from John Gummer, her MP,
who’d known Robb and described him as ‘a good, kind man.’ Soon afterwards,
Sophie was born, weighing no more than a bag of sugar. Like everyone else,
Joan worried that the tiny scrap wouldn’t make it. In a little while, we’ll
hear the song by Phil Collins, ‘Two Hearts’. It had special significance for
Joan because she felt that Robb was willing his little granddaughter to live,
that his heart was helping hers to beat more strongly. Sophie was very
special to her grandmother. Joan called Sophie ‘Soppy Lugs’, ‘Bugger Lugs’,
and ‘Half Pint’.
She took William into Ipswich when he was young, after his granddad died,
and they’d go to McDonalds. They went to the Suffolk Show when it was
raining hard, and she queued so that he could have a fireman’s hat. Then
there was the nappy incident – having so much fun that she forgot to change
it. He remembers her saying, ‘Oi! Frank, can you hear me?’, calling for a taxi on the phone,
and spending Christmas with her, and visiting ‘the USA lot’. He remembers that he and
Sophie would stay over, playing I-Spy before they went to sleep.
Joan took William and Sophie to the Regal in the summer holidays and they’d
have fish and chips afterwards. When he was home from university for the weekend,
William enjoyed going to see his grandmother with Sophie and having a
Chinese. The Saturday take-away ritual with Sophie involved sending a taxi
driver to collect the meal Joan had ordered. It usually included some spare
ribs. All the local taxi drivers knew her.
Then there were the school fêtes and the lucky dips – she made hundreds so
that she could contribute to the school funds. Joan was always keen to
support good causes, which included Cancer Research, Childline and the
Multiple Sclerosis Society. She gave a proportion of her income from the
bric-a-brac stall to charity.
Late in life, Joan learnt to swim at Felixstowe Leisure Centre in classes
for those with restricted mobility. It had great therapeutic value but, just
as importantly, it was fun. It was also another opportunity to fund-raise;
she took her time across the pool, but every stroke meant money. The family,
the Kings and the Brewers , joined her in the pool, and she loved it.
William says that Joan always looked forward and never back – just look at
the wheelchair scratches on the walls! She could swear like a trooper, but
it was funny and made you laugh, and was always bright and cheerful. She was
never really old, but her body let her down. Arthritis and osteoporosis
gradually restricted her movement. She felt liberated when she moved out of
Waveney Road into Margery Girling House, where she soon became established
as a well-loved character. Joan moved in January 2001, and met the
Duchess of Gloucester at the official opening ceremony in June that same
year. They had their photograph taken together. Joan enjoyed the best of
both worlds at Margery Girling House; she had all the support she needed,
when she needed it, she was surrounded by friends, but she also had the
option of closing her front door and enjoying her privacy, which meant a lot
to her. She appreciated all her carers, but Sarah and Sonia were closest to
her. All the carers knew that when they needed a break late at night after
visiting one of her neighbours they’d be welcome at Joan’s place. She kept a
bowl of sweeties for them to dip into.
The last time Joan and her family was all together was on her seventieth
birthday. They planned a secret get-together at the Shepherd & Dog. She was
thrilled to discover they were all there, including her grandchildren. Joan
was very proud of all her grandchildren.
Janet wrote a poem for her mum.
(Read by Janet’s poem)
I remember I painted your picture once
With a bright pink face and blue dress
and you said you loved it
I remember you made my costume for the school play
It was glittery and had a net skirt
and you said I was very good
I remember we went to see the Osmond’s together
We went by train to London
and you said you wouldn’t have missed it for the world
I remember how you’ve held my babies in your arms
Both big and small … and how you’ve helped look after them
and you said, you don’t mind one little bit
and I remember, I may not always say thank you’s and I love you’s
but don’t you ever, ever, forget
On this mother’s day, HAPPY MOTHERS DAYS
I send my love
A life lost. A tragedy for those she leaves behind. But happy memories do
live on and her sweet natured spirit is within us all.