Thank you for your condolences, Jo had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 but the tumour became active earlier this year. On Remembrance Sunday she was very poorly, admitted to our local Pilgrim's Hospice on Wednesday and died on Friday afternoon, with all the immediate Family at her bedside.
I am adjusting my lifestyle with the support of my daughter Tracy and adult grandchild Rebecca, both working and living locally. My lack of culinary skills currently dictate a menu of "ready meals" but am learning the art of preparing vegetables!
As Jo was a Clarendon House pupil I thought you might like to read the Eulogy, (time restricted to 8 minutes) I wrote for the Celebration of her Life Service on 12 December 2018.
Josephine, “Josie” to her parents family and “Jo” to everyone else, was born in South Wales in 1932, the youngest of the four children of George Henry Watkins “Harry”, a Welsh miner who married a Yorkshire lass, Josephine Ida Lumby, “ Ida” in 1922.
Throughout her life, Jo was passionate about her Welsh ancestry.
The 1930’s Economic Depression in the UK devastated the Welsh mining industry, but the Kent coalfields were unaffected. Harry moved the family to Ramsgate.
In 1940 all Schools in Ramsgate were closed and children and many families left the area. The Watkins family relocated to Ida’s family Home in Conisborough, near Doncaster.
Returning to Ramsgate in Autumn 1944, the family resumed a normal life and Jo joined Clarendon House Grammar School for Girls.
Michael Barrett, known as Mick until he enlisted into the Army and became 509 Barrett, but was Mike to his fellow “squaddies”, and thereafter.
The family home was in Ramsgate and he joined Chatham House Grammar School for Boys in 1944.
By 1946, with teenage hormones demanding attention, students at the two Grammar Schools were taking an interest in each other.
In 1946, Mick met Jo in a small group that began a social life together; gathering in a coffee shop in Ramsgate on a Saturday; cycling to a countryside picnic spot and pairing up for seats in the back row of cinemas!
By 1950, this group had left school, but did keep in touch for the rest of their lives. Sheila and Peter are here today
Jo worked in Boots The Chemist, in Ramsgate. Here she enjoyed an active social life and, with a group of other good looking girls, represented Boots at the Ramsgate Carnival and other local publicity events.
Mick secured a place in The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He continued to meet Jo whenever possible; she was to be his guest at his Passing Out Parade and partner at the Commissioning Ball on 7 February 1952, but Fate intervened, King George VI died on 6th February and the Country went into mourning, the Sandhurst events were cancelled.
Mike was Commissioned into The Royal Corps of Signals on 8th February 1952.
After a six month course in Catterick, Mike was posted to Malaya and joined a newly raised SignalsRegiment, manned by Gurkhas. For two and a half years, contact with Jo was by letter only, but their close friendship endured.
Mike returned to the UK in 1955 to attend a yearlong training course in Catterick. In January 1956 he proposed to Jo, and on 3rd April they married at St Laurence Church in Ramsgate,
but in May Mike returned to his Gurkha Regiment in Malaya without Jo. Why?
25 was a key age for an Army officer; marriage was recognised with a financial allowance, a married quarter and accompanied travel for his wife. Mike was 25 on 3rd August 1956 and claimed his entitlement. Fate intervened again. The Suez crisis curtailed the movement of Service Families beyond Europe. In November, Jo embarked on a cargo/passenger ship for a non-stop, 3 week voyage from Liverpool to Penang.
She caused consternation aboard one night, when she mistook the sound of the ships foghorn as the order to “Abandon Ship”, put on her life jacket and banged on the doors of the other passenger cabins, to alert them to the imminent danger!
Reunited in Penang, they motored to Mike’s base in the military Garrison in Kluang, a small town 80 miles north of Singapore.
For the next 30 years Jo, “followed the Drum”, to Mike’s seven tours of duty in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Nepal and four tours in England based in Blandford, Lincoln, London and Liverpool; requiring 22 house moves.
With no married quarter available in Kluang Garrison, Mike found a newly built, tin roofed semi-detached bungalow in the Town, situated in a grassed clearing, shared with a noisy tribe of Gibbon monkeys on the tree line. The Indian developer had an odd taste in decoration, the indoor walls were painted silver and the ceiling red.
The kitchen area included the bathroom, equipped with a cold water tap and the toilet. A nearby Mosque called the Muslim community to prayer, by loud speaker, four times a day. Jo was unimpressed with her first home, but within six months they had a decent bungalow, in a Camp housing a Gurkha Battalion.
They spent two and a half happy years in the Garrison with their first dependent, a springer spaniel named Honey. The Garrison Amateur Dramatic Society gained an enthusiastic performer: Jo.
Whilst based in Lincoln in February 1960, Lynn was born at the nearby RAF Hospital.
In 1961 whilst based in Singapore, Jo was confirmed pregnant. Tracy arrived in February 1962, born in the RAF Hospital in Changi.
For a job in a Gurkha camp in north Malaysia, the Family lived in a comfortable bungalow overlooking the golf course, on a Dunlop Rubber Estate. Jo learned to play golf and avoid the snakes that frequented the fairways.
In the 1970’s, home was in Bushey, near Watford. Jo took the girls to horse riding lessons. Lynn enjoyed the experience but Tracy did not, she said they smelt.
At school in Liverpool, Tracy became an “honorary” Scouse, accent and all..
Back to Hong Kong in 1977, Ah See, the Chinese lady who helped Jo with the domestic chores, became a firm friend, and when her two daughters came to Broadstairs for schooling, they stayed in the Family Bungalow with Jo’s Mother.
Now living in the UK, the eldest daughter, Ching is here today.
From 1981 to 1986 Jo and Mike were based in Kathmandu. Mike running the Gurkha Transit Camp and accredited to the British Embassy, as Assistant Defense Attaché.
It was a challenging domestic life, and entertainment was largely “home grown”. In a British Embassy Music Hall production, Jo, in full costume, performed the “Burlington Bertie from Bow” song, (see the back cover of the Order of Service); she also played Queen Victoria for another sketch, her only line was of course, “we are not amused”.
. Jo immersed herself in charitable work with Nepalese disabled and became an expert advisor to Service Visitors on buying Tibetan carpets. The Tibetan Refugee carpet factory. profited from her patronage.
Each year Jo organised a Christmas Party, for the children of the Transit Camp Nepalese civilian Staff. For this event, held in the garden of their home, Mike borrowed the only Father Christmas outfit in Kathmandu, hired an elephant from the nearby Zoo, rode into the garden and distributed presents to the children.
In February 1986 Nepal hosted a State Visit by The Queen and Prince Philip. The visit ended with a banquet in the Embassy for the King of Nepal. In the UK, the Palace entourage had packed everything required for the function, except white flour to make bread rolls. The Embassy staff said Jo might be able to source the flour. Jo knew of a Nepalese who baked German breads. She took the Chef to the bakery and, by promising the Baker a portrait of the Queen, relieved him of some white flour. The next day a hamper of the unused foodstuffs from the banquet was delivered to Jo at home, together with a signed portrait of the Queen, for the Baker.
Living for almost six years in Kathmandu provided some of the happiest days in the Barretts’ military Life. In 1986, at 55, Mike had reached the army officer retirement age.
Jo and Mike returned to the UK to live in their bungalow in Ramsgate, and adjust to Life as civilians.
Jo’s Sister-in-Law contracted Parkinson’s disease and in 1988, Jo was a founder Member of the Thanet Branch of the Parkinson’s Disease Society. As Welfare Officer for 16 years, she was proactive; organised and ran a weekly mobility exercise class, managed a minibus service, did home visits and arranged a coach holiday each year. Her work was recognised with an Honorary Life Membership of the Society.
Mike had a second career as a Civil Servant in the Gurkha Brigade Office in London, during which he, with Jo, attended a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and a Christmas Reception in Kensington Palace, as guests of Princess Diana. The Reception ended with a very young Prince William, climbing on a chair and wishing the guests, a Happy Christmas and a safe journey home!
In 1997 Mike retired from his second career.
Jo and Mike’s experience of Continental Europe was limited. Jo had been to Paris; Mike had attended a NATO course in Italy and seen Naples. So they embarked on a number of cruises, flights and coach trips to cover the Continent from Norway to Crete, and added a side trip to Egypt to see the Sphinx.
A notable Birthday treat for Jo was a trip to London for “Tea at the Savoy” with the family. A remarkably relaxed affair ended with granddaughter Rebecca, being handed a “Doggy Bag” of her favoured scones.
Family Celebrations included the Marriages of both Lynn and Tracy, the Christenings of their children and Jo and Mike’s 50th and 60th Wedding Anniversaries; the latter included a congratulatory card from The Queen.
Membership of the Kent Branch of the Royal Signals Association extended the camaraderie enjoyed in Service life, into Civilian life. Monthly meetings providing a varied programme of outings. Jo was an active Committee member for many years and Chairman for two.
At Family Christmas gatherings, Jo’s Party piece was faultless renditions of tongue twisters, including, “she sells seashells on the seashore…..” and, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers….” The empty chair at this year’s gathering will trigger a moment to raise a glass in her memory.
Jo was happily married to Mike for 62 years, was a devoted Mother to Lynn and Tracy and a much loved Grandmother to Christopher, Rebecca, Eleanor and Stephen.
She made many friends during her lifetime; they and the Family will cherish many happy memories of the entertaining, loving and caring Jo.