Live Remembered: Brenda Dick, potter, bookbinder and county councillor

 

Brenda Dick epitomised the un-sung millions who nurture families and build communities, but rarely receive a mention in the obituary pages of newspapers. She had no impressive academic, sporting, political or business achievements, but she unconditionally loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and supported, influenced and integrated a network of friends around the world. The postman's sack was always heavy with cards at Christmas.

Born in Norwich in 1916, she was strongly influenced by her father, Sam Cook, particularly in her sense of justice, her lifelong passion for cricket and her interest in almost everything – she read a newspaper every day (while railing against journalists who created rather than reported the news) and the New Scientist weekly until she died unexpectedly on 31 March.

She trained in physical education at Dartford College, Kent, but the Second World War moved her into physiotherapy, which allowed her to be more productive and relevant with her skills.

She married George Dick in 1941, but the war kept them apart for the next four years. Eventually, she rejoined him in East Africa after some tenacious harassment of the War Office bureaucracy.

During this exciting period of her life, she did everything from documenting the monkeys that her husband was using for his research on yellow fever in the Mountains of the Moon, to starting to raise a family. Her experiences in Uganda influenced her lifelong concerns about the challenges of developing countries, and formed the basis of the stories with which she regaled her grandchildren about shooting elephants and inadvertently urinating on crocodiles.

After 18 months in New York and Baltimore, she and George returned to Uganda, then to England in 1951, and on to Belfast, where she formed one of the founding groups of Amnesty International and supported the development of youth clubs. In 1966 she moved back to England, where she and George created an oasis of natural beauty and intellectual and gastronomic stimulation in Sussex. During these years she became an accomplished potter, bookbinder and gardener, reading widely and travelling extensively.

Her one regret in life was that she didn't play a musical instrument with proficiency, but her love of music and her artistic and culinary creativity lives on in her children and grandchildren. Many less fortunate adolescent girls also benefitted from her skills as a potter, which she taught at a girls' assessment centre for several years.

In the mid-1980s, at the age of 69, she became a county councillor for the SDP in West Sussex, a lone yellow flag in a sea of blue, with a special focus on education policy, particularly primary schools and the "rising fives". She remained a councillor until 1993.

She stayed in contact by email and Skype with her family and with many people of her children's generation who will remember her as a "second mother". She was Big Family and Big Community long before it was fashionable, an amazing person full of passion, compassion, intellect and tenacity, and a wonderful friend always ready to share a good bottle of wine. She will leave a gaping hole in many people's lives.

Bruce Dick

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