Joan Hilton

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Joan May Unwin was born on May the 1st 1917, the first child to Frank and Nellie. Both her parents were stylish, and Mum always had a great pride in her appearance as a result of their example. In the 1940s she loved brown tweed, but later in the 60s she went purple, but especially latterly, mostly she was a green person!

Her Father was a market Gardener and nurseryman. She was joined 6 years later by her younger brother Bryan who sadly was killed in a flying accident while on active service in 1945.

She was an accomplished pianist, and won a prestigious competition at the Wigmore hall in London’s west End, but her Dad felt this was not a suitable career for a young lady. Her love of music was never lost though. We have many memories of her playing piano at gatherings along with Dad on Ukulele. They always loved Trad Jazz and went to the Mardi gras in New Orleans in 1947, for Mum it was music with some life to it, so it is fitting that we saw her off with some of her favourite music which was playing as she passed over.

She was also a good golfer winning the Daily Telegraph women’s trophy twice pre war, but, like Mark Twain - who stated it was a way of ruining a perfectly good walk, - she never enjoyed the game, and after her marriage to Bill gave it up.

The end of the war saw the family move to the USA where they were often on the move, but I well remember the parties. As a host Mum excelled. I have memories of guests that left beer stains on the ceiling and a pond being dredged for an engagement ring thrown in during some of the more wild parties.

We are still in touch with so many of those folk. She had over 100 Christmas cards only last year. Everybody remembers the parties she threw. She always managed to network far-flung friends and acquaintances, as well as the more distant members of the family, … she kept so many folk in touch with each other. She was a social hub.

After we returned from the States we moved to Coventry, where my sister Pam was born. Again, Mum was always at the forefront organizing parties to entertain the international visitors, and also those from nearer home. I particularly recall The Reverend Simon Phipps, Industrial Chaplain to Coventry Cathedral, and later to become Princess Margaret’s personal Chaplain and after that a Bishop, singing rather risqué songs in our living room.

50 years ago we moved to Twickenham where my youngest sister Debbie was born. The final move was to Epsom some 22 years ago where Mum lived until July last year before going to Sunrise at Oxshott.

Wherever she lived she loved the gardens, and seemed to imbue some special quality to the soil that never allowed weeds to grow. She was still able to bend down and touch her toes as late as last year. I am convinced this was so she could pull up the weeds. Wherever we lived the gardens were always immaculate.

She also had a great love of languages (speaking French and Italian) and also was a keen amateur photographer. Judging by the number of photo albums she left she was a philanthropist to the entire photographic industry! She also engaged in the University of the third age where she could share her enjoyment of photography with others.

She was a great supporter of the RAF Benevolent fund, and attended many of the Battle of Britain and similar functions to meet the “boys” that had flown during those difficult days. She wrote a number of poems on the subject that were published in the Battle of Britain magazine “Scramble”.

Mum was a great Mother and grandmother, and always ready with wisdom when we needed her. She had a wonderful attitude to money, feeling it was there to be spent not squirreled away. Unexpected gifts were the norm, and she was extremely difficult to beat to the mark to pay for meals or drinks. There was always a laugh ready, even in the more recent difficult times, and kind words to be said. I don’t ever recall her being mean spirited.

On her behalf I must say a big thank you to all her friends and also to family for coming to the funeral. She would be thrilled at the turnout, and the music would have seen her dancing as she did at her 90th birthday. She always lived life to the full and tried to take others with her on that journey.

Added by: Deborah Hilton on 15th March 2010.


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Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
67 Portland Place, London W1B 1AR
0800 169 2942
Registered Charity No. 1081009