Music journalist pays tribute to mum and much-loved Aylesbury Brownie leader after her death aged 95

The funeral of Joan Needs was held at Watermead Crematorium last week
Joan NeedsJoan Needs
Joan Needs

Well-known Aylesbury music journalist, and Bucks Herald columnist Kris Needs writes movingly about the death of his mother Joan, whose funeral was held at Watermead Crematorium last week.

Joan spent the majority of her life in Aylesbury, living in the family's Bedgrove home and cared for by family right up until her death aged 95.

She will be remembered by scores of Brownies as her role of Tawny Owl in Bedgrove, and in Kris moving tribute, he fills us in on a local life well-lived:

Joan and family celebrating her 90th birthdayJoan and family celebrating her 90th birthday
Joan and family celebrating her 90th birthday

JOAN NEEDS 1926-2021

Since our monthly Vinyl On Wednesdays events succumbed to lockdown, my contributions to these pages have been confined to sadly lost friends who had formed part of Aylesbury’s fabric. Writing about my mum Joan, who passed away last month at 95, has to be hardest of all, while delivering my personal eulogy at her funeral alongside my sister Julia and brother Adrian was the toughest speech I’ve ever had to make.

Aylesbury Vale Crematorium was packed with family and friends on November 2 for her deeply moving service (arranged by K.Y. Green, conducted by Mark Bolkonsky). Music consisted of her beloved Jonathan Antoine singing ‘Ave Maria’, ‘As Time Goes By’ from Casablanca (her first dance with our dad) accompanying the slideshow, Paul Robeson’s ‘Deep River’ and her favourite Morecambe and Wise’s ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ to send everyone out remembering mum’s legendary smile.

Growing up in Cardiff, mum’s teenage years were dominated by World War Two and filling her autograph book at theatre doors. Photos show she could have been in films herself, her dazzling smile framed by Hollywood hair. After she married David in 1950 and I was born in Bristol, we moved to Churchill Avenue on Southcourt when dad started at Westcott’s Rocket Propulsion Establishment. In 1966, we moved to the house in Richmond Road where I write these words. Mum was a popular dinner lady at Broughton school, worked at newsagents and grocers on Parton Road and delighted local Brownies as Tawny Owl. Pets proliferated, including rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and Horace the tortoise. Mum made many friends walking her golden retrievers and Trixie the Shih Tzu, her beloved companion after our dad passed too early in 1993.

Kris with his mum JoanKris with his mum Joan
Kris with his mum Joan

Mum always encouraged whatever her three kids were into, including Julia’s dancing and Adrian re-enacting English Civil War battles dressed as a roundhead. She wasn’t entirely approving when I embraced the Rolling Stones at ten years old but let me go to Friars and welcomed visitors like Benazir Bhutto when I was running Mott The Hoople’s fan club (always friendly when she met the band). She cut out everything I wrote when I worked for The Bucks Advertiser in the seventies.

I used to love being off school because it meant I had mum all to myself. Three years ago, that childhood wish came full circle when I returned to the family home after my partner Helen passed away and I had all the time I could’ve dreamed of with mum, especially during lockdown. It was my turn to look after her, returning those years of unconditional love I didn’t always appreciate at the time. Her smile and welcoming personality still worked its magic in her 90s, my friends who she met or talked with on the phone all remarking how warm and lovely she was. The Clash’s Topper Headon even bought her birthday and Christmas presents. She also loved my rabbit Loftus when I brought him to see her and my beautiful dog Jack, who passed away two months before her at seventeen.

The last thing I did was spoon-feed her ice cream, poignantly recalling days off school fifty years earlier when I had tonsillitis and she did the same for me.

Adrian and Julia will agree we couldn’t have wished for a better mum. Our world may be a darker place without her but her luminous presence will never fade. After tirelessly helping others all her life, she’s finally allowed to rest with her beloved David, along with countless pets.

All will be smiling and so should we.

Thanks mum.

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