Helena Vernon obituary

Other lives: Social worker in Bristol and a committed fan of the Glastonbury festival

My wife, Helena Vernon, who has died of cancer aged 70, was a committed social worker in Bristol for more than 30 years. She was gregarious with an irrepressible sense of humour and a tenacious commitment to the welfare of children. She was also a great festival-goer and missed only one Glastonbury.

Helena was born in Lincoln to Gerard and Sheila Carey (nee McDermott). When she was four the family moved to Bristol, where her father became headteacher of St Bonaventure’s primary school, and her mother deputy head of St Mary on the Quay primary school.

After leaving La Retraite School, Bristol, Helena trained as a social worker and started work in the city in 1975. She settled down with her partner, Max Katz, and had two children, Mahalah and Joshua. The couple later parted. Helena spent her whole career in social work, becoming a social work manager in 1988, initially managing the day nurseries, before moving into child protection in 1994. That was where her heart lay. She was dedicated to supporting children through traumatic and damaging experiences.

As an active volunteer for the National Childbirth Trust, she gave talks on the subject. With the local anti-apartheid group she hosted numerous South African students in her home.

Helena loved the Glastonbury festival: from its start in 1970 the one occasion she was not there came when her children were unwell. She revelled in the joyous anarchic creativity. After attending for many years, in the 1980s she began working in the festival’s markets office, which is where we met – I was a full-time employee of the festival, managing the public office in Glastonbury town. We married in Barbados in 2005.

A welcoming and vibrant person, Helena made home a social hub, with an open-door policy to all her friends and neighbours. She had a large and supportive group of women friends who raised their children together in an adventurous way. In any experience, outing or opportunity for fun she was always an enthusiastic participant. She loved a trip to Devon, Sardinia, Greece, Wales or Cornwall with a group of friends and children.

In 2011 she retired from social work. We went on many travels together. Although sailing in the Mediterranean was one of Helena’s favourite activities, her highlight was a month crisscrossing the length and breadth of Madagascar.

Unfortunately Helena succumbed to alcoholism, which blighted her later years and those of her family. She suffered from dementia and latterly cancer, both of which she dealt with stoically.

She is survived by me, her children, a granddaughter and three siblings.

Dick Vernon

The GuardianTramp

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