Wed, 20 Feb 2019
TRIBUTES have been paid to Tilehurst Parish Council’s “big-hearted and inspirational” chairwoman Jean Gardner.
Mrs Gardner, who is believed to be the council’s longest-ever serving chairwoman, having held the position for 33 years, died on Sunday, February 3, aged 81.
During the 44 years that she served on the parish council, she only ever missed three of its meetings.
The most recent two were due to her being hospitalised as a cancer patient.
The one other meeting she was absent from was when one of her daughters, Ruth, was involved in a non-fatal car accident.
Born in Birmingham in 1937, Mrs Gardner moved to Tilehurst in 1961 with her late husband Bernard, into a new house on the Overdown Road estate.
Even before she joined the parish council, she was instrumental in setting up the community centre on Cotswold Way, often organising jumble sales in Rodway Road during the 1960s and 70s to raise money for the project – even selling bricks for the scheme.
Prior to becoming a member of Tilehurst Parish Council in 1973, Mrs Gardner was a member of the district council and county council.
She was chairwoman of the district and county council from 1997 to 1998, the year when Newbury District Council became a unitary authority.
A powerful spokesperson and campaigner for Tilehurst and its residents, she regularly assisted with schools appeals in Reading and Wokingham.
As well as being involved with the development of the Westwood Farm Community Association, in more recent years Mrs Gardner was hugely influential in delivering the Little Heath Skate Park project, listening to youngsters involved and ensuring that they got the facility they wanted.
Much of the Turn Tilehurst Red campaign – in which colourful displays, murals and poppy designs sprung up over the town to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice last November, took place beyond the parish council’s boundary.
But Mrs Gardner oversaw the parish council’s decision to donate £1,000 for repair work to be carried out on the town’s local war memorial in the Tilehurst Triangle – even though the area falls within the Reading parish.
Lynn Bower, Mrs Gardner’s daughter, said her mother always did what she felt was right for the people of Tilehurst and always tried to get a “fair deal” for its residents.
Mrs Bower said: “When she was in hospital, I said to her, ‘there will be so many people who will benefit from the things you did who will never even know you – like benches, grit bins and recreation grounds’.
“She said: ‘Well, that’s how it should be.’
“She was big-hearted and totally approachable.
“She would always listen to anybody – they were always an equal in her eyes.
“She gave lots to charity when she could afford it, when she couldn’t, she would do things with her time.”
One of the activities Mrs Gardner enjoyed doing was baking novelty birthday cakes for her grandchildren, while she would also knit baby clothes for friends and family.
She leaves behind three children, Lynn, Ruth and Rowan.
The vice-chair of Tilehurst Parish Council, Kevin Page, said: “Jean’s dedication, energy and enthusiastic work on behalf of the community was an inspiration to all of us.
“She will be sadly missed by all the parish councillors and members of staff.
“Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.”
The funeral service is to be held at West Berkshire Crematorium, Bath Road, Thatcham, on Friday, March 1, at 3pm. Family flowers only.
Donations in memory of Mrs Gardner can be made to Carebus Volunteer Group, an organisation for which she was president, via http://carebuscommunitytransport.org/page10.html