Choir member for 53 years and woman who “led by example”
FAMILY and friends gathered at Kirkby Stephen Parish Church to celebrate the life of a much loved member of the town community, Kathy Handley, who died, aged 86.
The church choir, with which she had sung for 53 years, began the funeral service with one of her favourite anthems, Lead Me Lord.
She was born Kathleen Dixon in London in 1932 — much to her later dismay not within the sound of Bow Bells.
She and her brother, Doug, along with their parents, later moved to Lindfield, near Haywards Heath, Sussex, and, during the war, when she was only 11, she worked at weekends at a large house in the area, helping refugees.
She also joined the Girls’ Friendly Society where activities included knitting scarves for soldiers.
In 1944, the Dixons moved to Newcastle, and 10 years later she married Ronnie Handley, following his service in the RAF.
The couple came to Kirkby Stephen in 1955 and set up home in Appleby Road. Son Paul remembers many enjoyable family holidays with his sisters, Trudy and Susan, all around the country.
Kathy worked at the Fountain Cafe and later with the Prudential Insurance Company. She soon became involved in community life in Kirkby Stephen, with the brownies, where she became Brown Owl, and especially with the parish church.
She was also the deanery Mothers’ Union president and was remembered as “a wonderful leader whose quiet authority was underpinned by her faith and who led by example”.
In addition to being an active member of the choir, she could often be found polishing and dusting in the church.
She also led a prayerful life and took part in Lent and Advent activities, was part the Churches Together in Kirkby Stephen group, and joined members of the clergy in saying Morning Office in Hartley Chapel.
In her later years she found enjoyment in holiday trips with her family and at Keswick Convention. Her family was her life — her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She also cared for those around her. She was an avid card sender and many people remember her kindness in times of trouble and sorrow.
She is survived by her children, Paul, Trudy and Susan, grandchildren Simon, Michelle and Danielle, and great grandchildren Jack, Alexander and Libby.
Donations in memory of Kathy can be made to the Great North Air Ambulance Service and the British Heart Foundation, c/o T. N. Hodgson and Sons funeral directors, Kirkby Stephen, who had charge of arrangements.