Raising a family and getting involved in her local community in Newport, Gwent, were the focus of my mother Josephine Williams’s life. A parishioner of St Anne’s church, High Cross, and an active member of the Mothers’ Union, Jo, who has died aged 96, gave inspirational talks to many groups and on one occasion broadcast her own “thought for the day” on local radio.
Always sympathetic to the needs of others, she volunteered at care homes and charity shops. Jo worked for the Tenovus cancer charity shop in Newport for many years and was recognised as their top fundraiser. She had great style and her rapport with customers made her many friends.
Born in Wolverhampton to Florence (nee Jones) and Harold Jones, Jo was one of nine siblings. Her father saw action at Ypres and after this first world war service continued his career as a master carpenter. Some of his carvings can be seen in the National Library of Wales; he also established an old time dance orchestra. Music was a passion of Jo’s, too, and during the second world war years she attended concerts in Wolverhampton – Myra Hess was one of her favourites.
Jo left school at 15 to help with family finances, but alongside her job in the accounts department at the printing company Barford and Newitt, she continued to study at “tech”, learning French and German. She carried on learning throughout her life; reading was a passion and no family member could beat her at Scrabble.
She was in Aberystwyth convalescing after a sinus operation when she met one Mrs Williams, who thought Jo would make an excellent wife for one of her sons. This led Jo to the Rhondda valley and marriage in 1944 to Gerwyn Williams. They settled in Newport, where Gerwyn, with Jo’s support, established a successful insurance business.
In later life, as well as gardening and playing golf, Jo and Gerwyn travelled the world, making new friends. After Gerwyn’s death in 1995 Jo continued to travel, enjoying cruises and gathering even more friends. Other people’s stories were of immense interest to her; and her own stories entertained visitors to the care home where she spent her last two years.
Jo was a remarkable example of positivity and resourcefulness. She said: “I have had a wonderful life.”
She is survived by her three children, Sian, Simon and me, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.