Tributes to a much loved vil­lage voice

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

LEG­ENDARY Gazette reporter Jo Fran­cis, who chron­i­cled the daily life of Hare­field for more than a decade, has died.

Thanks to her in­fec­tious en­thu­si­asm, in­fi­nite pow­ers of per­sua­sion and flair for find­ing a story, the Hare­field Gazette be­came es­sen­tial read­ing for any­one who cared about the vil­lage.

Jo’s path to jour­nal­ism was con­vo­luted – and it was her wealth of life and ca­reer ex­pe­ri­ence that gave her writ­ing its rich­ness.

Born Josephine Thomas, she grew up on a farm in the re­mote ham­let of Lanivet, near Bod­min, Corn­wall, and in 1956 joined Bar­clays Bank in Pad­stow.

By 1958, man­agers had spot­ted Jo’s ex­cep­tional qual­i­ties, and she was se­lected to be­come a trainer, a pro­mo­tion that brought her to Lon­don – and sealed her fate in the hap­pi­est of ways.

It was at a party thrown at her Hamp­stead flat that Jo would meet a hand­some gate­crasher called Nor­man Fran­cis, from Hayes. He was to be the love of her life.

Jo and Nor­man mar­ried in April 1971, and the cou­ple set up home in Den­ham. She left the bank to bring up daugh­ters Amanda and Demelza.

When the girls were young Jo took a num­ber of part-time jobs. She worked in women’s wear at Owen Owen, for­merly Suters, in Uxbridge High Street.

In the 1980s she was sec­re­tary at Den­ham Vil­lage School, and set up a cel­e­bra­tion cakes busi­ness at home. She wrote short sto­ries and ar­ti­cles, of­ten pub­lished, and it was this tal­ent for writ­ing that brought her into news­pa­pers.

She be­came

one

of the Buck­ing­hamshire Ad­ver­tiser’s Vil­lage Voice cor­re­spon­dents and quickly im­pressed then group editor Richard Par­sons with her sure-footed style.

When a re­port­ing va­cancy came up, he of­fered Jo the job. She later trans­ferred to the Uxbridge Gazette, first as a gen­eral reporter, be­fore be­ing given re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fledg­ling Hare­field edi­tion.

Jo quickly put her highly in­di­vid­ual stamp on the role, and be­came in­te­gral to vil­lage life. She was a fa­mil­iar sight ca­reer­ing around its lanes in her bright red Citroen 2CV, al­ways cut­ting a stylish dash.

Friend former col­league An­thony Long­den, said: “Jo was an ex­cep­tional reporter. She could talk to any­one and wrote beau­ti­fully – dur­ing her ten­ure there were few peo­ple in Hare­field who didn’t know who she was, and en­tire events were planned around when she would be able to turn up to cover them.

“I re­mem­ber some wag al­tered a black ice warn­ing sign in Break­s­pear Road. Jo con­tin­ued to write about that dan­ger­ous stretch as ‘Black Mice Hill’ – a name that stuck. She had im­mense style, charm

and and warmth – we won’t see her like again.”

Jo and Nor­man were tire­less in rais­ing money for St Mary’s Church, Den­ham Vil­lage, and of­ten ran one of the stalls at the an­nual May Bank Hol­i­day Den­ham Vil­lage Fair.

They were prom­i­nent mem­bers of the Tile­house School PTA, and helped run Den­ham Green Youth Club.

In 2004, fol­low­ing Jo’s retirement, she and Nor­man re­lo­cated to their beloved Boscas­tle in Corn­wall where Jo was to in­dulge her pas­sion for paint­ing. She joined an art group and much of her work was ex­hib­ited.

In 2012, the cou­ple moved to Bea­cons­field to be closer to their fam­ily, which now in­cluded muchloved son-in-law Neal and grand­daugh­ters Maisie and Lara.

Jo was di­ag­nosed with liver can­cer in 2014, but con­tin­ued to paint, travel, gar­den and ap­proach life with her usual gusto.

She died on Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 21, aged 77, her fam­ily by her side and a favourite CD play­ing.

She is sur­vived by her hus­band, daugh­ters and grand­daugh­ters.

A funeral ser­vice will be held at St Mary’s and All Saints Church, Bea­cons­field, at noon on Mon­day, Novem­ber 2. Char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions in mem­ory of Josephine Fran­cis should be made to Iain Ren­nie Hospice at Home, Ren­nie Grove Hospice Care www. ren­niegrove.org

See p14 for Bar­bara Fisher’s trib­ute

n CHARM AND WARMTH: Former Hare­field Gazette reporter Jo Fran­cis, who died on Oc­to­ber 21 2015. Be­low, Re­porters as­sem­bled out­side the Uxbridge build­ing which was to be the Gazette’s new home, af­ter mov­ing from Ruis­lip

n ON RE­PORT: Jo Fran­cis (front) and Bar­bara Fisher at Hare­field Academy, hav­ing been in­vited to sam­ple the school lunches

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