Remembering Hilary

At this time of year, as we look back on the year, we thank all of the friends who have helped us with projects, and remember those who are no longer with us. This year, we lost a key member of Woking LA21, Hilary Griffiths. Here, we publish an obituary, written by her children, Kathy and Bryn.

Hilary Anne Griffiths of St Johns, Woking, sadly passed away after her determined and courageous battle against Leukaemia on the 3rd of May 2017 in King’s College Hospital, London, where, as well as at St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, she had been undergoing treatment over a period of 4 years having beaten Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukaemia (CMML) once before with a bone marrow transplant in 2015.

Born in Liverpool to Fred and Olive Cowey on 22nd February 1950, she joined two older brothers, Keith and Alan.

Always a conscientious and cheerful student she completed her school education in Liverpool at Calder High School, which became a Comprehensive in 1966, when the dividing wall between the boys’ High School was metaphorically breached, allowing her to meet Gary John Griffiths, whom she married in 1972.

Science was always a passion and Hilary gained her BSc Chemistry Degree in 1971 from the University of Sheffield, where she also completed her Diploma of Education in 1972. Commencing her teaching career in the Sheffield area she continued to inspire students wherever she lived, whether in the St Johns, Woking where Hilary moved with Gary in October, 1979 or in Melbourne, Australia, where she and her family lived from 1987-1989. Their move from Sheffield south was just a month before Hilary gave birth to their first child, Kathy, who was followed by Bryn in 1982. Hilary was soon getting active locally with the NCT, discovering her new surroundings as she fetched and carried expressed milk.

Always passionate about education she undertook supply teaching at various local Surrey schools before joining the staff at the local Winston Churchill School. Here she became Head of Chemistry and had the pleasure of teaching her own children. Truly inspirational throughout her life, she continued to provide home tutoring for children who were disadvantaged and she later taught Plymouth Brethren children for a number of years at Highcombe Edge School after her semi-retirement in 2008. However, Hilary was never one to sit still and used it as an opportunity to do lots of other things she loved.

Hilary extended her awe of nature from outside her garden, which she loved, to the local, national and global level. She was a campaigner and activist with Friends of the Earth (FOE) – on whose SE Regional Board she served tirelessly for 9 years, whilst being Coordinator of the Guildford and Waverley local FOE group. Hilary always enjoyed the Annual week away for Base Camp. This was the highlight of the year for Friends of the Earth and is very much a family event that she went to annually. She and her Local Group won an Award, which she was thrilled with and had the opportunity to be the Master (or should that be Mistress) of Ceremonies. She made sure she was in a posh frock for the occasion. But she never stood on ceremony and was very modest about her achievements.

Hilary was an active member of Woking Debates, Woking’s LA21, Woking Biodiversity Partnership and loved taking walks (whilst talking) with friends, family or the South West Surrey Ramblers, in addition to supporting a multitude of environmental-related causes like Surrey Bees.

She stood as a member of the Green Party, in local elections for the St Johns Ward. She found time to assist in field studies, counting bugs in Costa Rica with Earthwatch, climbing Machu Picchu in Peru and found time to broaden her education with an Advanced Diploma in Environmental Conservation from the University of Oxford in March of 2006. It made her smile to have an Oxford Students’ Union Card at the age of 56 and earlier, in 2001, when Hilary was 51 she was accepted as a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

A truly remarkable and talented woman – she could make her own dresses, curtains and had recently taken up silverware with University of the Third Age. She also remained a lifelong supporter of Liverpool FC. Hilary liked to fill any available time with socialising, playing Sudoku, theatre trips and she couldn’t keep far away from her computer or tablet crammed full of emails that she diligently responded to.

Hilary was known, not only for her vibrancy, resilience, tenacity, optimism, humour and good spirits but also for her love and dedication to friends, colleagues and to her family, children, Kathy and Bryn, grand-children, Jacob, Lucy and Ruby, son-in-law, Peter and daughter-in-law, Jenny. She was always available for advice, support, and a cuddle. She would always help with gardening, fence painting and decorating or babysitting. Before she became unwell and needed to attend frequent hospital appointments she used to look after Jacob and Lucy every week. She loved showing them off at play groups or out and about at the shops or on train and bus trips, which they have fond memories of with Nanna.

In 2012 Hilary met David with whom she shared a love of the environment, politics, walks, traveling and socialising with friends. They became great companions and supported each other through the short time they shared together before Hilary passed away. They travelled to France and America together and kept their weekends full of adventures and activities. David, along with her best friend Nikki and other many friends and family supported her throughout her brave battle.

In line with her love of nature and her wishes, Hilary was buried at Clandon Wood Natural Burial Ground on Wednesday 17th May 2017. Attending the moving ceremony, with many individual tributes, to celebrate her life, were over 130 family, friends, ex-colleagues, ex-students, FOE Board members, and admirers from all periods of her life.

She was too young to leave us, she was an inspiration to many and loved by all she will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

Kathy and Bryn

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