Charles Kenyon: The voluntary life of my late mother, Mary

Our columnist reflects on a life working for country and the voluntary sector

Charles Kenyon
Charles Kenyon

My mother died in January. In the last weeks of her care, I saw first hand the essential role of the voluntary sector. The Macmillan nurses and the Basildon Hospital volunteers were brilliant both in hospital and providing care at home.

My mother, Mary, was brought up on a fruit farm and became head girl of Chelmsford County High School. She studied at Oxford then went straight to Hut 6 in Bletchley Park, decoding Enigma cyphers. She and my father moved in the early 1950s to a timber-framed farmhouse that the local authority condemned and made them demolish. This bureaucratic vandalism led her to found the local preservation society. Its influence with the planning of a village that went from a population of 400 to 17,000 by 1960 was crucial and continued, uninterrupted, to the 2017 announcement of one of the garden villages in the area, whose wise placement was due in part to her determination with planners.

She first collected for Poppy Day in 1938 and last did so in 2015. She was a churchwarden and parochial church council member for more than 60 years. Crucially, she was also a trustee of a well-off local charity that provides for the parish poor, now largely supplementing benefits. The charity is facing a crucial decision and this played much on her mind. One of her last acts was to dictate a letter to me to remind fellow trustees of the need for action. It was with pride that under "occupation" on her death certificate I put charity trustee (not retired).

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen,

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