Tribute: Jill Watkin

Jill Edith Watkin was born on 6 September 1935 into an RAF family; she was the third eldest, the family eventually consisting of 2 boys and 4 girls. At the age of 9, Jill was infected with the polio virus, as a result of which she spent 2 years in hospital, mostly in an iron lung to assist her breathing. Sadly, Jill was left with a permanent disability and brain damage and, at the time, was not expected to survive into adulthood.

Jill’s education, as a result of her illness, was severely affected; due to her special needs, her parents were advised that she should attend boarding school in Winchester, which her elder sister, Pat, also attended. Big sister Pat was expected to help her younger sister to get dressed each day, a task made easier as they both tended to wear the same uniform of skirt, blouse, cardigan, coat and shoes. This was a habit which continued throughout their lives. Many mistook them for twins as a result.

After finishing school, Jill found employment as a ward orderly at Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital. She enjoyed her time there but, at the age of 27, following the premature loss of her mother, Jill took over the running of the family home for her father and her two sisters who were still living there. Many years later, following the loss of her father, she took on part-time domestic work for a succession of local elderly ladies. She continued doing so for many years until she was gently reminded by her family that she had reached pension age and should herself be taking things easy!

Jill certainly loved all things bright and beautiful, each little flower that opened, and each little bird that sang. Her interest in birds led her to being a lifelong member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and she regularly donated to their appeals over the years.

As for creatures great and small, dogs and particularly stray cats somehow found their way to her back door. Over the years, Jill had a tendency to name these cats Marmalade or Felix, regardless of their colour, breed or gender! The current Felix quickly realised she was on to a good thing being in Jill’s care, and promptly gave birth to 3 kittens under the lounge chair in Jill and Pat’s house.

Due to her love of children and the ill health she suffered during her own childhood, Jill became a keen advocate for great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, particularly at Christmas time; she was always interested to learn about the welfare and progress of the many children staying there. She was also very fond of her nephews, nieces and their children and could always be relied on to keep them entertained with her formidable skills at Snakes and Ladders, Ludo and some of the other classic board games. She never forgot anyone’s birthday, and treasured the many cards people also sent to her over the years.

Jill was passionate about soap operas, as many of you may know. This could sometimes prove difficult however if anyone needed to call her between the hours of 6pm and 8.30pm. On occasion some of the soaps ran bonus episodes which would go on until 9.30pm, by which time it was then too late to call her because she was in the middle of her bedtime routine!

You will recall that I mentioned earlier that Jill was not expected to survive into adulthood. However, she proved everyone wrong by surviving to the grand old age of 82 years! This was in part due, in Jill’s younger years, to the wonders of the then newly established NHS, but since then modern medicine and, most importantly, the complete and utter devotion and care provided by her sister, Pat.

Jill leaves behind her eldest and youngest sisters, nephews, nieces, great nephews and great nieces, many friends and very caring neighbours. We know that she will be sadly missed by all who knew her.

Jennifer Millar