Tribute to Jean Wyatt

  |  Published: Aug 5th 2015
Jean Wyatt

Friends and family filled Wendover Free Church on 6 June to remember and give thanks for the life of Jean Wyatt.

Jean was born on 22 October 1929 in Chelmsford, Essex, the only daughter of Arthur and Clare Pryor, and little sister to Jack. Her mother had a confectionery and tobacconist shop to support the family as Jean’s father died when she was 18 months old. Young Jean was adventurous; she swam and ice skated on the nearby river Chelmer and as a teenager in the late 1940s went on hiking and cycling holidays in Norway and France. While she was a teenager in Chelmsford she befriended a German prisoner of war, and was on the receiving end of some concerned comments from her mother and brother. But then she was never daunted by criticism or authority, not allowing convention to get in the way of her passion for causes, whether they were individuals or countries. This compassion for people and a passion for peace was an important part of Jean’s faith. She met John Wyatt at Baddow Congregational Church and they married in July 1955 after a four year engagement – during which John completed his theological training. They honeymooned in Great Missenden, never imagining that they would spend their retirement in the neighbouring town.

Jean learnt that life was a bit different for a minister’s wife. Hosting a dinner party did not require etiquette skills but rather being prepared to share out the Sunday dinner with whoever turned up on the doorstep hungry. She launched herself into her new role with her usual commitment and enthusiasm, devoting herself to serving alongside John for 36 years. John’s work as a United Reformed Church minister took them on a long tour of England starting at Devizes in Wiltshire via Heckmondwike in Yorkshire and then Dover in Kent before ending in Putney and East Sheen, London. Their ministry was defined by their compassion and willingness to accept people whatever their background.

When they moved to London in 1980, their four children had almost all left the nest, so Jean had more time to be involved in her passion for peace. She joined Christian CND and made several visits to support the women at Greenham Common who were protesting the presence of the American cruise missile base. Jean’s activities were curtailed for a few years when her mother developed Parkinson’s disease; she came to live with them in the London manse and for the next three years Jean took on what was probably her most challenging job as a full time carer.

In 1991 John retired and they moved here becoming members of Wendover Free Church, which had particularly impressed them as an example of Christians putting traditions behind Christ’s command to love and work together. Jean was close enough to London to continue attending various meetings and gatherings supporting causes including Drop the Debt, Free West Papua and Nuclear Disarmament. In 1994 Jean developed ME, a disease that resulted in periods of fatigue that would leave her exhausted. She had to adapt to this new challenge and learnt that she could still be active as long as she paced herself, charging and recharging her energies between activities. She did not always get the planning right and sometimes had to do some recharging while lying on the floor of the local supermarket much to the concern of other shoppers. However, ME did not stop her continuing her support for peace causes. She continued to attend demonstrations, as long as there was somewhere to sit down to display her rainbow banner inscribed with the words PEACE, which was either draped around her or hung on a fence; preferably a significant fence, such as the one outside the Ministry of Defence. Jean was instrumental in introducing the Adopt a Minefield Campaign in Wendover.

In 2003, Jean’s husband passed away. John had not just been her soul mate but also her part time carer helping her cope with her ME. However, with the support of neighbours and friends Jean was able to stay at her Wendover home looking after herself. She continued to travel to support her peace causes when energy allowed.

Jean found peace in quiet contemplation and regularly attended the local Julian meeting with others wishing to ‘Be still and know that I am God’. The writings of Julien of Norwich gave her encouragement, and during difficult times helped her to experience a sense of peace. Jean was 85 when she passed away after a short illness that was spent peacefully in her home looking out over her garden.

 

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