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Appreciation For Rona Bowman By Annie G (now Spittle)

Rona and I were friends for 40 years and for 20 of them, we lived our lives in parallel. We had the same friends and the same interests and seemed to go everywhere and do everything together. We even spent 3 years living together in Kings Cross and although I was sometimes driven to despair by some of the things Rona did (or didn't do), we never had a falling out and managed to remain friends when I went to the Old Kent Road and she returned to Charing X Rd.

In the past 20 years, we have only met up a few times but this lack of face to face contact did not stop us spending many, many hours on the phone over the years.

Shortly before she died, she rang me and we were on the phone for an hour and then I had to go out. I promised to ring her back when I got home and my phone bill testifies to the fact that that 2nd phone call lasted another 4 hours and 47 minutes! Even for us that was a record but 3 - 4 hour phone calls were not unusual.

But that phone call was the length it was because, as usual, Rona was updating me not just on her own news and all that she had been up to and was planning to get up to, but filling me in on just about everything she knew about everybody we both knew. Poor health over a number of years has prevented me taking part in any activities or reunions with my old friends, but Rona understood that I loved hearing everybody's news and she kept me connected all these years with the wonderful times I had in my youth as an active member of Sea Rangers, Discovery Service Team, The Docklands Scout Project and of course, Discovery Sailing Project; all with Rona.

During this epic phone conversation, the thing that was most evident was that Rona was at a point in her life where she was the happiest I had known her to be for many years. In the weeks and months after she lost Joe, we spent many hours on the phone late into the night whilst she talked in depth about Joe and what they had meant to each other and although their relationship could sometimes be rocky, she clearly loved him and was devastated by his loss. In our final conversation, she was brimming with hope for the future and even told me she was ready to meet somebody else.

We all know about Rona's love of all things nautical but something else that gave her life the meaning it had and meant so much to her was her friends and family and she expressed again her delight in the fact that she had such good friends in her life and how much it meant to her that so often she was able to meet up with someone she had not seen for years and could just carry on as though she had only seen that person yesterday. She attributed that to her great good fortune to have been a Sea Ranger and a Scout. She always told me she felt fortunate and blessed to have had the life she had.

And that was Rona. She appreciated and rejoiced in all the small things in life and all the important things. Not for her the lure of fancy restaurants, clothes or cars. She was a practical down to earth person for whom it was people who mattered most. Her enthusiasm for everything she did made her who she was. Very rarely did anybody see her 'down' because no matter what, she 'got on with things' and very rarely spoke about her feelings. Rona was a 'doer' rather than a talker and she got things done. She was never interested in being on committees or in a position of power, she loved just 'doing'. And of course, the greatest part of 'doing' for her was teaching skills to others, particularly children. She would have been a great mum but sadly that was not to be but how many other peoples children have had their lives enriched by being taught something by Rona, including my own son who has lovely memories of Rona spending time with him when we were down in Gosport, answering all his questions and enjoying his company as much as he enjoyed hers?

I think we all learned from Rona and that was her legacy. That and her infectious enthusiasm for life whether on the water or in her allotment, looking after Snoopy or talking about 'Puss', or the lady from the cattery down the road whom she was fascinated by; when chatting proudly about Ross becoming a dad and her pride in her nephew, Roger becoming a grandad again and Annie B's children who she had also taken under her wing. She also loved her job at the school because, again, she was able to share her love of gardening with the children and she delightedly quoted things they said to her.

I could write a book, as could so many people about the wonderful times we spent with Rona and her many kindnesses to all. One which touched me and stayed with me was when I asked her if she would look after our much loved Yorkshire Terrier, Milly,for the day and explained that she had never been left with anyone else before, even for an hour and both my children and my husband were terribly anxious about leaving her with anybody. We were supposed to be taking our son to Portsmouth for an event and my husband (who had definitely, never wanted a dog in the first place!) was considering backing out because he was worried Milly would not be happy and would pine for us. When we arrived at Rona and Joe's house, Rona had brought Mrs B's elderly Yorkie for company for Milly for the day! I was so touched that she would have thought of that but that was so typical of the ways Rona thought about making things better for people. (It didn't work by the way, Milly then had 2 dogs to be scared of cos Snoopy was there as well and she apparently spent the whole day quaking to my shame!)

I so wanted to be with you all at Rona's funeral but life and health have conspired yet again to prevent his happening. I am so sad not to be there but will of course have Rona and her family in my mind and heart all day on Monday as I have for the past weeks. God Bless and God Speed Rona. I am so glad you knew we all loved you but I bet you didn't know how much.

Added on: 9 March 2008


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