The following tribute was given at Annie’s memorial service on 23 November 2019. It was written / co-ordinated / pulled together by Sue Joyce.
Annie was born Annie Lilian Haskins in Stourbridge on 24 Feb 1932, first born to Harold and Annie. She had a brother, Joseph, born 7 years later. It wasn’t an easy life. Her father worked as a molder in local foundries, and at one point walked all the way to Yorkshire for work. Annie’s mother worked variously in a toffee factory, in service in Hagley Hall, and twice in ammunitions factories. In spite of the long working hours, home life was always very loving, and Annie and her father were particularly close.
Annie went to school locally, but contracted TB twice as a child, from drinking unpasteurised milk. She recuperated on both occasions in a sanatorium in the Clent Hills. The food wasn’t great, Annie was a very particular eater from then on. Her father always held further education in high regard, so he was very pleased that Annie, when school was finished, went on to secretarial college to learn bookkeeping. Seeing children walking barefoot to school, with boots tied around their necks to save shoe leather, was an incentive for Annie too.
After college, she worked as an office junior where there was an articled clerk called Joseph Somers. They struck up a relationship, but Joe joined the army in 1944, and was away serving in India, Palestine and Egypt, before discharge in 1948. They married in 1952 at Yardley Wood Church. In due course, Sue was adopted, and several years later, so was John. Their first house was in Bentley Heath, but the first real family home was in Keys Hill, Baddesley Ensor, with living space for the family over a chip shop. Annie ran the chippy with the help of a neighbour known to the children as “Aunty Pat”. Running a chip shop wasn’t easy, but for the children, Baddesley was a great place n with a family dog, and wide open spaces!
Eventually, Annie got a job at Drayton Manor Park as a bookkeeper. When she arrived, the ledgers were perfectly and accurately written up by hand, and Annie helped make the transition to computer based bookkeeping. The office team did accounts and wages, so Annie knew everyone on site It was at Drayton Manor that Annie met Kath, where they were both first aiders.
The family enjoyed caravan holidays in Wales with Joe’s sisters, Sheila and Ethel, and their families. They had tried camping, twice, and that was enough for Annie! She and Joe enjoyed music, they both liked Roy Orbison, and some country and Western music, and opera for Annie, but Joe wasn’t sure! In spite of being a fussy eater, she enjoyed the thought of cooking, so acquired the entire set of the 1970s cookery books “Supercook”. The reality of cooking was another thing, she only ever mastered the basics.
The family moved to Tamworth in May 1997, Joe and Annie continued working, and were long term members of the Red Cross, attending many big local events. Their first granddaughter Joanne was born in 1991.
When Joe retired, he and Annie enjoyed travel to Italy and Spain. Then, with no warning, Joe had a brain haemorrhage in 1994. Thankfully he recovered, but life was understandably more cautious after that for both of them. The bright spot in that year was the birth of their second granddaughter Amy. Joe lived another four years, but died in 1998. I met Annie then, I took Joe’s funeral, and so our friendship began. After Joe’s burial, Annie had a tree planted in the cemetery in Joe’s memory. She could see it from her living room window, and it brought her comfort. Joe had been the love of Annie’s life, she was adamant that she’d meet him again, and she thought she’d not get on without him.
But Annie found she was made of sterner stuff when it came to it. She continued to travel, going to places she and Joe had planned to visit. Although Joe wasn’t with her, she enjoyed these trips. She continued to be a great reader, she was particularly interested in art and history, something she passed to her son John. She had a keen interest in art, her friend Jan remembers great discussions of art programs they’d watched on TV. And she loved her garden and her birds, rumour has it that one of her neighbours has a stash of bird food from Annie, so the birds won’t go hungry!
Shortly after Joe’s death, Annie started to come to Church again. She and Joe had come for a time, but it had tailed off. The first Sunday she was back on her own, she met up with two old friends who were already there, one of whom was Kath who she’d met at Drayton Manor. Annie simply became part of God’s family in Amington from that Sunday.
Annie had health problems in her later years. She developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma five years after Joe died. This was treated but recurred twice. She also coped with heart surgery and a broken leg! But each time she recovered, and was back to as many of her usual activities as soon she could manage. The cancer recurred again in November of last year, though she told very few people. In the end, treatment was too much for her. As she said to me a few weeks before her death, the machine was worn out.
During the times of illness, and especially in the last few weeks of Annie’s life, she has had the support of many people. Geoff and Jan, Jean Trasker and Julie, Alan, Trevor Holland, were just a few of the helpers, and all much appreciated by Annie, Sue and John. The support of the Macmillan and the District nurses was invaluable in Annie’s last days. John and Sue have asked me to pass on their thanks for all the wonderful help both they and Annie have received.
She was not afraid of death, she knew she was going to meet her Lord, and so she did on October 18th.
A few of Annie’s friends are going to share their memories of times with Annie, but before that, we shall have another song so you can stretch your legs and join in with another of Annie’s favourites.
In church life, Annie’s two great enthusiasms were children’s work and pastoral care. She worked hard, and was rightly proud, to gain qualifications in both, travelling to and from Birmingham on her own. She was one of the oldest people to complete the Bishop’s Certificate in Children’s Work. As well, she had skills in administration and bookkeeping as well, and served on the Parish Church Council for years.
Three people are going to share their experiences of sharing time with Annie. First is Kath, her old friend from Drayton Manor that Annie met at Church again, the first time she came after Joe died. God works in mysterious ways! Kath will talk of Annie’s involvement with children.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin the list of children’s activities Annie was involved in – when Annie was around, it was always a happy time.
JCKC Sunday School at Greenacres school: Annie was a leading light overall, but sorting out games and puzzles was her forte.
Summer holiday clubs were a spin-off, more fun at Greenacres, lots of children we’d not met before, and many old friends. Good Friday and Advent Calendar Workshops were like this too, Annie often doing registration and keeping an eye on the paperwork and money. She was a founder member of Open the Book, telling Bible stories in local primary schools, with dramatic licence and some pretty exotic costumes!
At Messy Church she used her poster making skills to turn out colourful, cheerful looking posters beforehand, and on the day she did lots of practical things, but most of all she loved engaging with everyone, enjoying their company and sharing God’s love and laughter with them.
At Amington Ark she restricted herself to the registration table, welcoming everyone with her lovely smile, and of course, handing out the all-important stickers.
Here are a few words from families with children involved: “She showed us all so much love. Our children knew that they could always confide in her about anything at all as she always gave them her time. “ Another said, “She was full of supportive words.” And another: “She was the first person to see at the Amington Ark. She would always ask how we were, and how my other daughter is.” And a last one: “Annie took an interest in our family, would ask about our daughters when they moved on,… and would speak to them when they came home … she was genuinely caring.”
Speaking personally, Annie and I shared so much, we have laughed and sometimes cried together. That’s what friends are for!
Thank you Kath. The second person to speak is Carol. She worked with Annie in pastoral ministry, and speaks as one of our Church wardens.
I first got to know Annie when we trained together to become Lay Pastoral Ministers. We had laughter and tears too, as we shared our life stories and many other things.
After we were formally commissioned, she went on to help and support many other people. One person put her feelings into words, shared by many: “Annie helped anyone she felt needed help from her and did any job she felt she could do. She was a treasure to so many of us.” Another wrote: “I will forever be grateful for the friendship and love she gave to me when I lost my beloved husband. She gave her love and support unconditionally.”
Phrases like “time for everyone”, “willing to listen”, “compassionate”, “nothing too much trouble”, “gentle soul” are repeated like a chorus whenever Annie is spoken of. These qualities, joined with the intelligence and good advice observed by others give a good picture of Annie’s caring nature. Not to mention her great sense of humour and shared laughter.
As well as this gentle side, Annie had her standards and stuck to them. Annie and I served together on the Church Council and its Standing Committee. Annie always stood up for what she considered was right. She was an Advocate for Children, it was her role, but it was also her heart. In activities, her gift of administration shone, it was generously offered, and put to good use.
And last but not least Joyce Page speaks as a co-worker in children’s work, but especially as a member of the home group she and Annie belonged to.
Annie seemed to be at every church event. Our parting shot was always ‘See you later’ – at whatever the next was.
Tuesday afternoon is Knit n Natter. Annie always sat with her back to the kitchen, facing out to the rest of us in the room. She didn’t knit many garments, but she knitted a very long scarf which gave her time for cake and socialising which she was very good at. Like I said, she would say – ‘see you later – at House Group’.
Annie particularly liked the book of Ruth. She embraced technology and downloaded the Bible onto her tablet. However, one wrong touch and she lost her place!
She would often produce a little prayer that took her fancy; she had a little stash in a drawer by her chair – and she would finish our evening off with one. And of course, we always ended the Grace with ‘Hallelujah’! And we still do in her honour.
Hallelujah indeed! What a great way to end these reminiscences. Thanks to Kath, Carol and Joyce for their memories, and thanks to all who handed in a card in Annie’s memory. They have helped to put together our words. I’m sure you recognised Annie from them. The Lord has been a rock to her, Joe was her rock when he was alive, Annie in her turn has been a rock to many others, and she is being greatly missed. We are so thankful the Lord brought Annie into our lives. Hallelujah!
We created the following video montage for the service. The music was sung live, but rather than have it in silence, we have added the original song as a backing.