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Community stalwart from Bekesbourne-with-Patrixbourne dies aged 66 after short illness

Few people have made such a huge contribution to their local community as Jill Thomas did.

Her sudden death following a short illness aged 66, two days before Christmas, has not only devastated her family but also shocked and saddened her many friends.

Jill Thomas has died aged 66 following a short illness
Jill Thomas has died aged 66 following a short illness

On moving to Bekesbourne-with-Patrixbourne, near Canterbury, in 1998 with husband Steve, Jill threw herself into supporting and benefitting community life, using skills and experience she had gained while working for organisations like the Consumer Association.

Within months, she initiated a project to mark the new Millennium with a photographic exhibition of the history of village life, which was presented in the village hall.

She was also instrumental in obtaining funds under the Millennium Festival Grant for All which were used to produce information boards about the parish and are located at Bekesbourne Village Hall and Patrixbourne’s Church.

The severe flooding in the parish in 2000 caused a lot of distress and anxiety to many families and Jill took it upon herself to visit each affected property and do everything she could to assist.

She was an instigator of the Little Stour and Nailbourne River Management Group, serving as its secretary ever since.

'Jill had a heart of gold and will be sorely missed...'

Its chairman, Martin Twyman, said: “Jill pulled things together and acted as an engine room for the group. She was so dedicated, knowledgeable, and experienced in dealing with people. I personally, as chairman and friend, will miss her terribly. She will be a very hard act to follow.”

She carried out a mapping exercise of Bekesbourne’s churchyard and created a churchyard trail for the youngsters, was a major contributor to the 2013 publication, ‘Bekesbourne – a Little Village with a Big History’ and for many years was the village’s contributor to the Kentish Gazette’s village news section.

She was secretary of the village recreation ground committee, and has been both parish clerk and a councillor, and was a governor of Bridge School.

Headteacher James Tibbles said: “Jill had a heart of gold and will be sorely missed. Her contribution to the school over many years was invaluable.”

Parish council chairman Andrea Nicholson added: “Bringing the local community together was something Jill was passionate about. She will be sorely missed by many people in the villages here.”

Jill Thomas, left with some of he many guests at a ladies afternoon held in aid of the Pilgrim's Hospice
Jill Thomas, left with some of he many guests at a ladies afternoon held in aid of the Pilgrim's Hospice

Jill was also secretary to the Arts Society in Canterbury.

Chairman Stuart Field said: “Jill was meticulous in her minute taking and organisation and also responsible for the website - her commitment was total”.

She worked tirelessly to encourage new energy into the parish by helping to introduce younger residents on to organisations, supported the proposal for mother and toddler coffee mornings, helped organise summer camps for the St Lawrence and Highland Court cricket colts, and helped new businesses develop and grow.

Originally from Winchmore Hill, Jill graduated with a degree in geography from Reading University, where she met her husband, Steve. She also gained an MA in Children’s Literature.

Her first job after university was as a probationer office in London. In 1977, she secured her dream job as a project officer in the Consumer Association where she wrote for Which?

In 1981, she produced The Which? Book of DIY, and in 1983 Which? Way to make Soft Furnishing.

After teaching herself IT skills she successfully introduced computerisation to The Consumer Association.

She moved to Epsom in the early 1980s where she and Steve had their boys, Richard and Robbie.

There she established The Mouse House of Epsom, an after-school computer club for children and their parents.

Her funeral will be for 30 close family members and friends at Bekesbourne Church at noon on Wednesday, January 20.

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