22 May 1931 – 23 December 2020
Joan was an only child born to Francis and Alice Richardson at Canterbury, Kent on the 22nd of May 1931. She then lived a very comfortable childhood at Romsey, Hampshire until January 1940 when her father, Francis, died. With the War on, Alice and Joan came up to Lowther Village to live with her Grandparents, Sam and Elizabeth Robinson. Sam was Head Gamekeeper to the “Yellow Earl”. Joan enjoyed her time living there. Sam would take her to help feed the dogs. Barbara and Dot took Joan in her later years to Lowther Castle, to Jack’s Croft Pond, and she recalled walking around there with her Grandfather “Sam” and Mr Jeffries, the Head Gardener. This was another brief happy episode in her young life.
Sam was to die in 1943, after which Elizabeth, Alice and Joan moved to “Brocklebank”, Hackthorpe, where Joan lived for the next 76 years!
Joan went to Lowther Endowed School, meeting her future husband, Jack Little, when she was only 8 years old!
On leaving school, Joan went to Brigg’s Secretarial College, studying shorthand, typing and accountancy. Joan got a secretarial accountancy job in Ashford, Kent going back to the county of her birth and near to her Dad’s side of the family, to whom she had a strong tie, right until the end.
Joan and Jack were still an item at this time, Joan living in Ashford and Jack living in Rugby, where he was a gardener for General Electric. While Jack was at Rugby he was called up for National Service, joining the King’s Regiment, Liverpool. Both Joan and Jack came back up to “Brocklebank” in 1952 to celebrate Joan’s 21st birthday with family and friends. A couple of days later, Jack was sent off to Korea, where he was on the front line until the War ended in 1953. After Korea, Jack came back to his first job working at Lowther as a Forester.
In 1955 after Joan’s Gran died, Joan and Jack got married here in Lowther Church on the 10th September 1955. Joan and Jack had two daughters, Dorothy born in 1959 and Barbara in 1962.
Joan put her secretarial and accountancy skills to good use in the community. In 1959 Joan joined the Lowther & District Social Club, which then became the Parish Hall Committee, taking over as Secretary from John Peel in 1973. Joan was in charge of taking Bookings for Lowther Parish Hall, including subscriptions for the tennis courts. She was also Caretaker of the Hall, helping with the running of the Badminton Club, Parish Sports Day, Dance and Christmas Party and Dance.
In 1966 Joan joined the Lowther W.I., becoming Secretary in 1971, resigning after 40 years in 2011.
Also in 1966, Joan was appointed to the Parochial Church Council of this Church, becoming its Treasurer in 1971, and not retiring until 42 years later, in 2013.
In 1969 Joan became Treasurer and Secretary to the Woodhead Charity, where every year the elderly of Lowther Parish receive a gift.
Joan was also Secretary & Treasurer of the Wednesday Club, which was a social afternoon for the elderly of the Parish.
Both Joan and Jack were keen travellers, visiting countries across the globe. Joan and Jack started their passion for travelling in 1980 for their Silver Wedding Anniversary, when they went on a coach trip travelling through Europe to the former Yugoslavia.
Over the years they travelled all over Europe, then venturing further afield, Canada twice, taking a helicopter flight over Niagara Falls, the National Parks of USA with a flight over the Grand Canyon; in South Africa, Cape Town, The Garden Route and a safari in The Kruger. And then New Zealand and Fiji.
Then, in Christmas 1999, Jack told is son-in-law, Dave, “I want to go back to Korea”. Christmas was always a very poignant time for Jack. When in Korea on Christmas Day, he was due to go out on patrol. Fortunately his brother, George who was in the Engineers had just arrived. His Officer said to Jack “Go and find your brother!”, which he did. His platoon went out on patrol and never came back. Dave and Dot got in touch with the Korean Veterans to discover that there was a special trip to Korea to mark the 50th anniversary for servicemen, in the company of Prince Andrew, who was representing the Queen, in 4 months’ time.
And so it was that Joan and Jack’s last big holida,y in 2000 was to Korea, the highlight of their extensive travels. While they were away, Dot remembers getting a phone call telling her to watch the BBC news. There was Jack in front of his Officer’s grave, totally lost with all his thoughts. Jack had wanted for so long to take Joan to Korea and to lay his ghosts to rest. He and his former colleagues were also presented with medals and were honoured by the Korean people and treated like royalty during their stay. They also met actor Roger Moore as part of his work with UNICEF.
In 2005 Joan and Jack celebrated their Golden Wedding.
When Jack died of Alzheimer’s, in 2013, it left a big hole in Joan’s life. In 2019, after 76 years at Brocklebank, Joan moved to Croftfield Care Home in Cotehill, Carlisle, where she spent the last 16 months being well looked after.
She is survived by 2 daughters, Dorothy and Barbara. Through Dot and her husband Dave Ball, she had two grandchildren, grandson, Stephen Ball, married toEmma, and grand-daughter Michelle who, with husband, Kevin Halstead, produced two Great Grandsons, Ethan and Harry; and Grandson. Through Barbara and her husband Ian Poole, Joan had a granddaughter, Adele and grandson, Darren, who with partner Neasha, produced great granddaughter, Aurora.
Even after such a long and fulfilling life, it is never easy to say goodbye to someone you love. We can be truly grateful for a long life, well-lived. There is a sense, as our Scripture reading put it, that for Joan’s life, everything was suitable or its time and came in its appropriate season. Even death itself came at the right time and her end was peaceful. And yet, when you love someone, it can still feel as though the time has gone too quickly and that this cannot, should not, be the end.
The 121st psalm, which we had as our Bible reading today, reminds us of eternity. We spend our lives at the centre of our own little universe and then suddenly we lift up our eyes to the hills and become aware of a different reality.
Hills put life in perspective. They lift our eyes out of our daily troubles and give us a new way of looking at things. Not only do they make our troubles look smaller, they also remind us that the God who made us is vastly bigger than anything we can face, even death itself. And yet, for all his vastness and the majesty of his extraordinary creation, filled with countless planets, solar systems and even (perhaps) multiple universes), he cares intimately for each of us.
Yet when we lose someone we love it can feel as though God has somehow let us down, that he didn’t, perhaps, value our loved-one as much as we did.
But when we lift our eyes up, as it were to the hills, and see it from God’s perspective, it begins to look very different. God always has eternity in view. He always understood that our lives are too short. But the Bible tells us that that was not his will for us. It is the result of a world that is no longer living his way, that we have chosen to run ourselves and the consequences of that have not been good. In fact they have been pretty deadly, for the planet itself and for us individually. Put simply, the world is not as it should be.
But we are also reminded at Christmas, that he came to do something about that. He came and walked the very path we had strayed down. He even faced the death that was the consequence of our wrong turns, too, that death upon himself and turned it back into life.
Now, I know that people have conflicting feelings about this idea of eternal life. On the one hand, we feel instinctively that death should not be the end, but on the other hand, we feel that eternal life is too much of a fairy tale to be real.
Part of the trouble again is our perspective. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia series, said that our trouble was that we think of this world as the real world and Heaven as a kind of shadow land. But actually heaven in the true reality and this world is the shadowland, a pale reflection of the world that God created for us and the life he intended for us.
Joan has now passed through the shadow and one day each of us will pass through it too. But God would not have you make that journey alone, nor would he have you fall into bitterness or to lose hope. We must leave behind this shadowland in order to allow it to pass and to enter into that better world that God intends as our future. We can be grateful for the companions who have strengthened us on the journey here, but we need to let them go and we need to prepare for the time when we will need to go ourselves.
It is often said at times like this that our earthly possessions are things we cannot take with us and that is true. But there are three things, the Bible says, which we can take with us – three things that are eternal and are shared between this shadowland and the reality of God’s world. They are faith, hope and love. The love you have shared with Joan is an eternal reality and you still experience it even though she’s gone. Right now, you will experience it as pain, but pain, too, is an experience of love as Jesus reminded us, on the Cross. Love never dies or diminishes and you will find that your love for Joan only grows in the years ahead.
But faith and hope are also eternal. They are God’s gift to us, when life in this passing world becomes shaky, to allow us to grasp hold of the solid reality of his eternal world. They sustained Joan through her life and even into death and they are offered to us too. So my prayer is that at this time of loss, you will be able to lift your eyes up to the hills and see life from a different perspective, from God’s perspective and now how much he loves Joan, how much he’s done for her, even in death, and how much he loves you and just what extraordinary things he can do for you, even when life is shaky, through faith, hope and love.
So farewell Joan. Thank you for everything. Go now with the love we will always share and will treasure until the time comes for us to follow. God be with you. Amen.