With thanks to her sons Jake and Sebastian
Jo. – beloved mother, grandmother, sister, auntie and friend – was born in 1947 to Eddie & Mary, the 3rd of their children, sister to Brian, Rosemary, Kate and Clare. She spent the first couple of years of her life in Stanmore before the family moved to Southgate, where they would live until she left home many years later. She grew up close to a much larger extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins and her great aunts who had raised her own mother after she lost both her parents at a very young age. In many ways hers was a fairly typical suburban, post-war childhood, but even during her early years her qualities that were loved by so many – fun loving, determination, and a concern for the wellbeing of others – were there for all to see.
She spent her first holiday in Lyme in 1948 – the start of a lifelong love for the town – and at the age of 5 started at Vita et Pax school where she was one of 3 Josephines in the class, one of whom would become a lifelong friend. Always bright, though by her own admission not necessarily the keenest to apply herself, she was nevertheless made house captain in her final year, due in part – so they say – to some enthusiastic lobbying of fellow classmates by her sister Kate.
A little later on she attended St Michael’s Grammar school until the age of 16 when she went to work as a nursery nurse at Camden House children’s home in Southgate, where she had already been volunteering in her spare time. Countless children were lucky enough to be cared for by her during this time – she still spoke very fondly of them decades later – and remained lifelong friends with one of them – Victor – who had been in her care from a very young age.
In 1970 she gained a place on a Social Administration course at LSE, where she met Roger, and they were married in 1972. Shortly afterwards they both qualified from Newcastle University as social workers and their work took them initially to Northamptonshire, then Bristol for 3 years during which her 2 eldest sons, Nathaniel and Jacob were born, before finally settling back in Northamptonshire in 1979. In 1981 the family was complete when her youngest son Sebastian arrived on a snowy day, Jo waving to her older sons through the hospital window as they built a snowman for their new baby brother in the park across the road.
As a mother she was the most loving of people who did everything she could to set her children on the right path in life, never spoiling them but if they really wanted something she’d always do her best to find a way for them to work hard and earn whatever it was. She had a wonderful nurturing side – for example recording herself reading bedtime stories so that she could still be there at bedtime when she had to work late.
She was also the life and soul of the party as many friends and relatives will tell you – her high kicking on the dancefloor, not to mention her unique dress sense and infamous multi-coloured boots often leaving 3 mortified teenage boys!
Since she passed away many former work colleagues in the home finding team at Northants County Council have paid tribute to her, all commenting on what a pleasure she was to work with even if her infectious laugh did cause one or two to complain anonymously on occasion! She was a great manager who led by example, not to mention a loyal friend to her colleagues in times of need. The number of lives she must have positively impacted during her time working in foster care is immeasurable; one particular source of pride for her was the culmination of years of hard work leading to her finding a family to adopt 4 sisters and enable them to remain together through their childhood, a truly remarkable achievement.
After more than 25 years in Social Services the opportunity to leave the world of work presented itself and she moved to Lyme Regis. Far from taking her foot off the pedal however she soon settled in and began volunteering with vulnerable adults at the Connect centre in Bridport, as well as the Gateway social club that many of the same adults attended in the evening. She also set up the Lym Zim Link charity with her sister Kate, due to their brother, Brian’s links with Zimbabwe. For the first 7 years, mainly through selling their own crafts as well as the monthly Lym Zim draw, they supported the Leonard Cheshire home, a residential school for children with physical difficulties near Harare. Initially they paid to equip the home’s bare physio room, but eventually they were able to go even further and fund the construction of an entirely new residential block, transforming the home into one of the best facilities in the country for disabled children. The impact of this really can’t be understated – for some children having access to these facilities really was the difference between being able to walk independently or not; being able to return to live with their families or remain away from them in a residential school.
Perhaps with a sense of ‘job done’ at Leonard Cheshire, the charity then moved on to support girls at the Emerald Hill School for the Deaf, covering the fees for impoverished children who might otherwise be unable to receive an education. It also helped to improve the living conditions for deaf children at the Pedro Arrupe Centre, a home for 25 children with hearing impairments in rural Musami, paying to install water and electricity at the home and replace the thatched roofs of various buildings. An amazing legacy & something to make those who knew her feel immensely proud.
In her later years she was thrilled to become Granny to 7 grandchildren – Daniel, Evie, Leo, Oliver, Louis, Grace and Benjy – and loved nothing more than having them to stay for trips to the seaside here in Lyme, just like her own children, and indeed herself, had enjoyed in days gone by.
Her 3 sons, as well as their wives and partners, recall with fondness her help, advice and patience during some of those difficult moments that all new parents face. Although her health prevented her from being as active with them as she’d liked in the last couple of years, she nonetheless played the role of Granny with typical love and enthusiasm, whether through Skype calls, homemade cards and other treats that she loved posting to them, and watching their joyful faces as they spent hours in her house discovering many of the same toys that she’d enjoyed her own children playing with many years earlier.
Her life and the mark that she left on the world can best be summed up in the words of her older brother, Fr. Brian Enright: “Her life-long concern for the marginalised, whether deprived children in North London and Northamptonshire, or vulnerable adults in Lyme Regis, was truly remarkable. She was a kind, generous and loving person and her death leaves a huge gap in our lives.”