Jean Mary Williams 1936 - 2023

Mrs Jean Mary Williams, formerly of Market Court, Launceston, was a lady who devoted a great deal of her time and energy to Launceston through various local organisations and as a past member of Launceston Town Council. She passed away peacefully in Springfield House, North Hill, where she had been a resident for about four years.

Known to everyone as Mary, she was born in May 1936 in Southborough, a village in Kent, and was the elder daughter of the late Arthur and Jean Bradbury. The family later moved to Sussex to be near Mary’s grandparents, as her father was at sea serving during WWII. She commenced her schooling in the village school at Thakeham and passed her eleven plus, attending Horsham High School. In 1945, her sister Sara was born.

In 1950, Mary’s father left the sea and took a shore-based job in Gravesend, where he became second-in-command of the Merchant Navy sea training school. At the age of 14, she became a pupil at Rochester Grammar School. Gregarious and highly intelligent, she took her A-levels in one year, passing zoology and botany with ‘A’ grades, but sadly she failed chemistry. As her father did not believe in women’s education, he would not allow her to re-sit and go on to university. Scientifically minded, she was employed as a lab technician at East Malling Research Station, where she remained for two years. She then worked for the Ministry of Agriculture for several years, first in Kent and then in Berkshire, where she visited farms and vaccinated poultry, driving hundreds of miles in her green minivan

Highly competitive, she loved sport and played netball for Rochester and played for Kent. Mary was a superb tennis player, participating in both mixed and ladies hockey teams and also long jumped for Kent. She played league tennis and with her sister played hockey and tennis for a local club.

After many exhausting years working for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mary saved enough money to enable her to train at Guildford Hospital in radiotherapy, where again she excelled and emerged as the top student in physics. Following her graduation from Guildford, she and her sister holidayed in Dartmouth where she met her future husband John, who was a sailing instructor. With love at first sight, the following year they were married by John’s father, a CofE vicar, in the church next to Rochester Cathedral, where, as a teenager, Mary had been confirmed by Canon Ball.

When Mary and John moved to Cornwall, she had qualified as a radiotherapist and found work at Freedom Fields Hospital in Plymouth, treating patients with spinal and brain tumours. Always active, fun, and full of energy, she was a hard worker and often a law unto herself. She remained a supporter of the Conservative party for 70 years, when, as a teenager at 17, she first went along to meetings in Kent.

The family’s move to Cornwall saw them live in a small cottage on The Terrace in Yeolmbridge, overlooking the River Ottery. Very basic, there was no mains drainage and the toilet was outdoors. Here she brought up her two young sons, Duncan and Philip.  They later moved to Cross Lanes, Lanstephan and at around this time her husband died at the age of 46.

In addition to raising her sons, she had several part-time jobs and worked in the Castle Cafe in the High Street and went on to work full time for Launceston Social Services in Dunheved Road, a job she enjoyed immensely, remaining there for the rest of her working life. It was a role that enabled her to fully engage with the community that she loved. She enjoyed being out and about and meeting people, and would drive extensively around North Cornwall, visiting clients and driving them around if they were housebound. She had a great sense of justice and a belief in people’s right to help and support when in need. In this job, she ensured that numerous people could access the help that social services could provide.

As a parent, she was always taking her family on excursions to visit places of interest in Cornwall and throughout the UK and Europe. She enjoyed the cinema and theatre and would organise frequent visits to Plymouth and Exeter to see the latest film or play. Trips to London would ensure that every museum, gallery, and tourist site would be visited in packed itineraries. After her retirement, she spent many happy years being able to enjoy the company of friends, time with her children and grandchildren, and to fully engage with the local community that she loved so much. For many years she was a steward in St Mary’s Church, at Lawrence House Museum, and for the National Trust at Cotehele. She became a town councillor for a long period of time and in 2004 she was immensely proud to be elected as the Mayor of Launceston. She helped to instigate the film showings that are still going on today in the Town Hall and was responsible for seeing that the Round House in Newport Square was put in good shape for future generations.

A past chairman of the Launceston Old Cornwall Society, she travelled to various parts of the UK, where her greatest love was visiting churches, castles, and stately homes. She visited Europe many times as well as taking a long trip to Japan. She was a past member of the Ladies Probus Club, the Dunheved Flower and Garden Group, and was interested in the workings of the Priory Committee and the Launceston Conservative Association, being a past chairman, as well as a member of the Conservative Club.

When her health deteriorated, Mary moved to Springfield House at North Hill, where she received superb care during the worst of the covid pandemic. She leaves her two sons and two grandchildren, together with her sister.

The funeral service was held at St Mary Magdalene Church, Launceston, conducted by Rev Mary Williamson, with Mr Edward Lancaster as organist. Flowers were tastefully arranged throughout the church by Mrs Lynette Mincher. The lesson was read by a member of Launceston Town Council, Mr R L Tremain, and two favourite poems were read out by her sons. The interment took place later at Bodmin Cemetery.

"Our mother not only loved her family and her friends, but she loved the town of Launceston and the county of Cornwall," said her sons at a reception held at The White Hart after the service. "She will be much missed by all of us."

Family mourners were: Duncan and Philip Williams, sons; Cara Jenkinson, daughter-in-law; Alexander and Eleanor Williams, grandchildren; Sara Weller, sister; Jane Weller and her sister, Sally, nieces; Gerald and Tessa Williams, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Representing Launceston Town Council were: Deputy Mayor (Mrs N Gilbert, also representing, the Mayor Mrs H Bailey), Mr and Mrs P O’Brien, Mr and Mrs John Harris, Messrs B Hogan, L G Penhale, D Gordon, and R L Tremain. General public attending: Mr and Mrs Bert Downes, Mr and Mrs P Mincher. Messrs: J Neale (Launceston Old Cornwall Society), W Roberts (Miss M Lancaster, Mr and Mrs J Langdon, Launceston Conservative Association and Scott Mann, MP), J Ellacott (Dunheved Flower and Garden Group), B Mitchell, A Dunning (Mrs B M Dunning), K Wadland, A Wills (Lawrence House Museum) and H Wellington.

Mesdames: M Tout, R Prout and S Burden. Misses: V Ellacott, T Strike, M Butler, S Tierney and others. Donations in lieu were for Lawrence House Museum and the Launceston Old Cornwall Society.