Eulogy for Joan Vokes by her grandson Dan Mepham

Joan Vokes came into the world on the 2nd of July 1934, and over the time she spent here with us, she helped create a wonderful family and made many friends … many of whom are here today, thank you.

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Joan’s life couldn’t be classified as ‘a simple one’. She was born underweight, diagnosed at an early age with diabetes which controlled her life for many years, she outlived 2 husbands, Albert and George, a son in law, Robert, and in 2012 she also outlived her youngest daughter, Diana.

But amongst the sad events which take us all by surprise, there are always happy memories which make us smile and bring us hope.

Joan was born to Lilly and Robert Thick in Alton Hospital, Winchester. Living a simple family life in the village of Beech Alresford with her parents, it didn’t take long before she met the man who’d later become her husband and the father to her 2 daughters.

Albert Smith was a young farmhand who worked the land all year round.

They married in 1952, and moved the family to Itchen Abbas where they would end up living for many years.

The farm where Albert worked was now just down the road from their new house, and joining him on the farm would be ‘his’ father Charlie Smith, who was also a farmhand.

Joan’s role in the family was based primarily at home although she was called upon from time to time to help on the farm.

For starters she was the chief cook, or picnic maker for her 2 daughters who’d often go off to watch their father working in the fields.

Joan’s time was spent preparing meals, raising the children, tending to the garden, and keeping the family dogs in their place, amongst the many other day to day roles which come with running a house.

Amidst the chaos of life, the family garden was the one place which Joan’s and Albert’s love of nature came together. They’d spend many hours outside in the garden with the children, growing their own vegetables, and making ‘their’ garden just that little bit more special every time. Even after Albert’s passing, Joan would still find comfort in the garden, and loved watching the different colours from each of the flowers change over the year.

Joan and Albert lived happily together in Itchen Abbas, seeing both of their Children getting married, and having children of their own, until Albert’s passing in 1989.

Sadly, over the next few years, Albert’s father Charlie was the next to fall ill. Joan stayed by his side caring for him and making sure that everything from day to day chores to medical administration was taken care of, he lived a very happy life, passing on in peace, with love and respect for Joan.

Over the next few years, Joan lived alone. Self sufficient and completely unphased, Joan continued to grow her vegetables, tend the garden, exercise the dogs, and welcome family and friends with open arms.

As I said before, Joan and Albert had 2 wonderful daughters, one of which is with us here today, Shirley Cook, who with her sister Diana, helped Joan and Albert expand the family-tree with grandchildren, and as time passed great grandchildren, and more recently great great grandchildren.

But Joan didn’t want to just experience life through her family, she still wanted more, and through years of making friends, and friends of friends she met a friendly man called George.

Marrying in 1995, they took on the world together travelling to Portugal with Shirley and Bob, and then a trip around Europe with Diana and Ralph. Joan confessed at the airport minutes before flying to Portugal that this was in fact the first time she’d been on a plane, and so was incredibly anxious, but it was too late to turn back.

Joan and George were married for 5 years before George’s passing in March 2001.

At this point in Joan’s life, things started to take a slight knock, as her diabetes started to effect her eyes.

But like with every down, there is always an up.

Joan’s daughter Diana and her husband Ralph had decided that they would build a bungalow for Joan. It would be close enough to them to keep an eye on her and ensure that she was safe, and yet separate enough as for Joan to keep her independence.

Joan moved to Shropshire and it was here where she’d spend the next 7 years of her life, but also experience something she’d never expect.

On the 5th of June 2012, her youngest daughter Diana Mepham died aged 57 from cancer. Diana was Joan’s Carer. The responsibilities of Joan’s needs then fell to Dan to take over from Diana’s role.

Joan then faced yet another hit, when in May 2013, her son in law Robert Cook passed away, making her only remaining daughter without a husband.

From the very early years, Robert always called Joan ‘mum’, and even through to his passing, that was her name.

In 2014 Dan, Joan’s grandson and now carer, had some life changes of his own when on holiday, he met his soon to be wife. His plans would be taking him to Germany, full time. This meant that Joan’s future had to be revised once again as she was not confident or able enough to live alone.

Shirley then took it upon herself to make plans for Joan to move down south to be closer to her. Within a few months plans were being made to relocate Joan to Tisbury where she would independently live with the security of knowing that Shirley was close by.

Sadly this story took a turn for the worse, as Joan found herself in and out of hospital with different issues all indirectly relating to diabetes.

She was taken into a Care Home and was treated like a queen, being cared for, and was very happy making new friends.

Sadly, on Thursday 28th January 2016, Joan fell to sleep for the last time, passing away peacefully.

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