Judy Hillman obituary

Other lives: Guardian planning correspondent in the 1970s who co-wrote a biography of Geoffrey Howe

My younger sister, Judy Hillman, who has died aged 85 following a heart attack, was a journalist and polymath – and one-time Guardian reporter.

Born and brought up in Seaford, East Sussex, she was the daughter of Rex Hillman, a solicitor, and Beryl (nee Martin), a PE teacher. During the second world war Judy and I were evacuated to Ottawa in 1940. Enjoying the freedom of Canada, we spent long summers in Quebec at a cabin in Larrimac, swimming in the Gatineau river with winters marked by skating, tobogganing and the odd sleigh ride.

Back in Britain, Judy attended Brighton & Hove high school, winning a scholarship to Roedean school, where she became head girl. As well as being academically gifted Judy was good at tennis and played at the Junior Championships at Wimbledon.

After studying economics and moral philosophy at St Andrews, graduating in 1955, and completing a secretarial course, she got her first writing job, for the magazine Public Works & Muck Shifter. This was followed by stints at Woman’s Day, the Evening Standard, the Observer and eight years at the Guardian, where she was the planning correspondent in the 1970s. In planning she found her niche. She later edited Planning for London, a Penguin book published in 1971.

In 1979 Judy became a marketing consultant for the St Katharine Docks development corporation. Later freelancing, she produced three reports for the Royal Fine Arts Commission, and authored all the Royal Parks review group reports. She was involved with the London advisory committee of English Heritage and the urban parks advisory group of the Heritage Lottery Fund. She was a patron of Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill.

An early member of the Bow group, a Conservative thinktank, she became a lifelong friend of Geoffrey Howe, co-writing his biography, Geoffrey Howe: A Quiet Revolutionary (1988).

Judy enjoyed entertaining, and sitting next to a politician at one of her dinner parties was not uncommon. She played tennis into her 70s, when this was replaced by sketching with the Drawing London group and art courses at the City Lit.

A devout Christian, Judy was an active member of St John’s Wood church. She was taken ill on the way to hang her artwork in an exhibition at the Primrose Hill community library, near her home.

Throughout her life Judy suffered from a debilitating condition, Epstein-Barr, which once prevented her from working for an entire year. Nevertheless, she kept it all private and was outward looking, community-minded and positive.

Judy is survived by me, her nephews, Tony and Julian, niece, Anthea, four great-nieces, a great-nephew and two cousins.

Rosalie Michaelson-Yeates

The GuardianTramp

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