Kathleen was born in 1926 to Kate and Percy Newman, she was the youngest of three sisters. Her elder sisters were Molly and Rosemary – who was my grandmother. They shared a happy childhood growing up on the Nacton Estate in Ipswich.
At school she was so good at sports that her friends would actively avoid competing with her as they knew she would always win! This love of sports lasted throughout her life – the Olympics and Wimbledon in particular were staple viewing events at her home on Thornhill Road.
At a young age, Kathleen enlisted in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, better, and more affectionately known as the WRNS. She served in the WRNS on two separate occasions, firstly from 1944 – 1946 and then again between 1953 – 1981. All her postings were on shore and she regularly joked that she was the WREN that never went to sea!
Kathleen loved her time in the WRNS, proudly stating that ‘joining the WRNS was the best thing she ever did’. She gained the rank of Fleet Chief Wren and was very highly thought of by her colleagues many of whom she kept in touch with all her life.
She was also a very well respected and active mentor for the younger WRNS who worked under her but was strict when she needed to be – gaining the endearing nickname of ‘Dragon Drawers’.
For services to the WRNS and associated charities she was awarded the MBE. An immensely proud achievement for someone who held Queen and Country in such high regard.
Once retired, she worked at the YWCA and also volunteered making tea for people at the hospital and the Magistrates court. In – between these commitments she was an active and independent traveler, regularly heading off for trips both home and abroad.
All through her life the overwhelming quality that shone through was dedication and service to others. Whether that be her family, Queen and country, her friends or her church. She was always ready to drop everything and go to anyone who needed her. A beautiful example of this was when Kath was unable to walk far she still took the bus for one stop along Thornhill Road so she could go and see her friend, Rita Barfield in Barham Care home. That was the kind of lady she was.
Her faith was very important to her. She was an active member of the church community and when she wasn’t putting the kneelers back after service, she was single-handedly stocking the Fetes and Bazaar’s with cakes, jams and pickles galore! Her contributions led to the pickle and jam stall being affectionately named “Kath’s Pickles”.
Her home was a always a welcoming one. Rest assured you’d be greeted at the door with a warm smile and a ‘Hello Dear!’ There would be always be cake or biscuits on offer, more often than not both! Her lounge was a treasure trove of trinkets, photos and collectables. Hung proudly on her walls were at least two Labrador calendars, an animal she dearly loved. This love for animals didn’t stop at Labradors. She adored cats too! When she retired the station cat was also retired and he
came to live with her and she had cats keeping her company ever since — sometimes her own, but sometimes the neighbours too!
While I have happy memories of her sat in her chair in her lounge, working through that day’s crossword, listening to Classic FM, she was never happier than when sipping a sherry surrounded by family on Christmas day —and of course, the Queen’s speech ALWAYS took centre stage.
So that’s how I’ll remember Kathleen, a wonderful role-model that left a lasting impact on the people she met. She’ll leave a big hole in our lives but her values and generosity will live on through the family, friends and community she so adored.
Eulogy written by Kathleen’s great niece
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