A Tribute to Aunty Joan by Peter Staley

Aunty Joan, or as most of her us called her at one time or another “Aunty Bones”, was born 94 years ago. She had three immediate sisters, 8 step sisters and umpteen cousins, nephews, nieces, great nephews and great nieces.

My earliest recollection is the tin bath in front of the fire at Nanny Mills’ where Aunty Bones would take great delight in getting the loofah out to scrub us clean because cleanliness is next to Godliness.

And oh, she loved to laugh! Over half a century later she gave me a Christmas present wrapped up with bows and inside was a ……. loofah. She roared with laughter until tears ran down her face.

We were very tempted to top the coffin with a loofah a ‘going to heaven on a loofah’! She would have appreciated the humour but sadly we couldn’t even find one!

She trained as a seamstress and she was brilliant with a needle and cotton, she darned our socks, mended our jumpers and made our trousers.

Well, at least she tried to make my first pair of long trousers. At 12 years old I was desperate to move from short trousers into the big league and long trousers. Dad and Mum agreed that the time had come and so Mum and Aunty Joan got to work. How hard can it be to make a pair of long trousers for a 12 year old???

They were a disaster and this 12 year old returned from the Boys Brigade evening in tears having been teased about the trousers.
They were made of some kid of heavy material that didn’t hang right the were baggy both around the turn-ups and about the bottom. I looked like a yacht in full sail, complete with spinnaker or a charcoal grey hot air balloon that had crash-landed!
Aunty Joan couldn’t contain her laughter. She rushed into the kitchen were both her and mum burst out laughing. Dad was left to placate a bemused youngster.

She married Uncle Syd on 8th Oct 1949 and together they served the God whom they loved together, mainly through the Beresford Road mission. Many a Sunday afternoon was spent in the upper room listening to Gospel stories.

Who could forget the Sunday School outings to exotic places such as Bidstone Hill, and Greasby? The buses would take us, the adults would feed us and Uncle Syd would run around the field throwing sweets to all those who trailed behind him! I am sure they subsidised those outings and the Mission such was their generosity of spirit. It characterised them as people: inclusive, warm hearted, loving, caring, and compassionate.

The bank holiday trips to West Kirby and the trip to Totty’s to purchase ice cream and hot water for the inevitable cup of tea.

The games of cricket or rounder’s, the trip home with fish and chips! Happy days, and fond memories, all because Uncle Syd and Aunty Joan gave of themselves in sacrificial service to the Lord Jesus whom they loved and devoted themselves to. Their sole aim in all this was to introduce others to His saving grace.

She was a super aunt, a wonderful sister and a devoted wife. She was a faithful friend and an open, honest and outgoing person.

She had her principles, which were never more on display than at her 90th birthday. I sat opposite her and she refused to let me have a drink of wine,
‘I am not paying for you to drink wine!’ she announced as I looked around to see everyone else had their glasses full of “apple juice”.
‘Aunty Joan, I am 65 years of age!’ I exclaimed
‘I don’t care how old you are!’ she shot back
‘Well, can I pay for it myself then Aunty?’ I enquired, tentatively
‘No certainly not! It’s my party!’ was her comeback
I lost…. she won! Nothing ever changes it seems. I even went and got a haircut at the weekend … just in case!

Olive and I went to see her at Christmas time, asked if she recognised us she shook her head and looked as us quizzically trying to recall us. We sat for a while, showed her pictures of the family but it was not making any connection. We sang some carols and she joined in some of the choruses.

When we returned to the lounge which had a lot of people sitting around watching TV, she turned to me, put her hand on my knee and shouted,
“You’re a very naughty boy!”
Not knowing how to respond I said something like,
‘Yep sadly I am.’
She laughed and went quiet, then she burst out again
‘You’re a very naughty boy’
The place went quite
‘Yes,’ I said again,’ but Jesus still loves me.’
Not letting me get away with it, she must have been recalling some misdemeanour of my youth, of which there were many, she shouted again at me ‘You’re a very naughty boy!’ and burst out laughing.

Aunty Joan was ready to go home to heaven. To be with her Saviour and Lord and worship him forever in a place where there is no more pain or suffering or Alzheimer’s disease, which so cruelly robbed her of the final years here on earth.
She was ready to meet Uncle Syd and those who had gone before her and who they had introduced to Her Saviour.

Earth has lost one of the good people, salt of the earth, heaven has gained another saint and she will have heard those words from her Jesus ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ and that was what she lived for.

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