Tributes to woman who taught at Greatham school for 30 years

Friday 1st March 2019 12:15 pm
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Jean Crofts ()

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A WOMAN who survived enemy fire in the Second World War and taught at Greatham Primary School for 30 years has died at the age of 90.

Audrey Jean Crofts, known as Jean, was born in Hawkley on June 29, 1928, the only child of carpenter Sid Kemp, originally from Greatham, and his wife Lucy, a school cook.

Her daughter Glenda Kennedy said that aged 11 Jean began cycling five-and-a-half miles to Petersfield High School in all weathers, just as the Second World War broke out.

Glenda said: "During the war, on one of those school days, Jean and her bike were strafed by a German fighter plane, which resulted in both Jean and the bike ending up in the ditch at the side of the road. Hawkley parish church tower was a landmark for the bombers and fighters to follow.

"Another occasion saw Jean and her trusty bike being the centre of attention when a fleet of British tanks were using the same road as they travelled to the south coast in preparation for D-Day. One of the tanks brushed Jean’s bike, knocked her over and buckled the wheel. Jean then had the tank column halted while a member of the crews made sure she was okay, and fixed the bike."

In 1939, Peter Crofts’ school in Battersea was evacuated to Hawkley. He stayed there after the war, as his parents had died, and married Jean in 1950.

After teacher training in Portsmouth, Jean began her career in Gosport before moving to Greatham Primary School in 1953. She stayed until 1983, mostly as deputy head.

Glenda said: "She was one of the first women to be a mum and hold down a full-time job even while her children were just babies. There was only four months’ maternity leave in those days. Jean was well known for being able to control a class full of children with just a look!"

Retiring early, Jean joined St Mary’s Church in Liss. She was its first female church warden, Red Cross branch leader for six years, enrolling member of the Mothers’ Union for eight years, and involved in Bible study and discussion groups.

Jean was part of a committee that turned a former school in Liss into The Triangle community centre. Glenda said: "Once this was up and running she helped out wherever she could, including the after-school club, where her skills as a teacher were put to good use."

Jean lived in Hawkley until 1960, Petersfield until 1981 and Liss until 2009, when she moved to Iver in Buckinghamshire to be near Glenda. In 2016 she went into residential care in Farnham. She died on February 13, leaving three children, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Reverend Canon Brian Cook will conduct her funeral and thanksgiving service at St Peter and St Paul Church in Hawkley on March 2 at 11.30am, before her ashes are interred alongside Peter’s at Hawkley churchyard. Glenda said: "There will be refreshments in the village hall afterwards, and anyone who knew her is welcome. I know at least one of her old pupils is going to be there. It’s lovely to think people respected her enough to come."

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