Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding area has lost a true pillar of the community with the death of Joan Johnstone, aged 73.
She was a town councillor for 30 years, and chairman for over a decade, as well as with being the driving force in many other local organisations.
Hundreds of messages of support were received by her family following her death, many mentioning her warm and caring nature, keen sense of humour, determination, courage and the boundless energy which saw her take the lead in numerous community activities and initiatives.
Born at Castlerigg Farm, Armathwaite, Joan was one of four children of the late Thomas and Mabel Brownrigg.
She had two brothers, George and the late Bert and a sister, Ruth.
The family continued to live at the farm for the first nine years of Joan’s life and she attended Lazonby Primary School.
They then moved to Scar Sykes Farm, Newbiggin-on-Lune, and Joan continued her education at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, where she excelled at all sports, particularly hockey and netball.
Joan’s father trained and trialled sheepdogs for many years, and Joan and Ruth spent a lot of time travelling around the UK to support him.
They made friends everywhere they went and had very fond memories of these times spent together.
After leaving school, Joan worked as a nanny for Captain Anthony Lowther at Whitbysteads, Askham, taking care of his three daughters.
Joan was 16 years old when she met Stuart Johnstone, then aged 18, at Sandford village hall.
They married six years later in May, 1970, at Ravenstonedale Church.
During her courtship with Stuart, Joan’s naturally caring nature prompted her to pursue a career in nursing.
At the age of 17 she started as a nursing cadet at the infirmary in Carlisle, where she qualified as a general nurse.
After the wedding, the couple made their home in Kirkby Stephen and brought up their children in the town.
They had a son, Andrew, and daughter, Sarah. Joan helped Stuart grow and develop the Ford Johnstone family business, which this year celebrates its 90th year.
A long-serving member of Kirkby Stephen Town Council, Joan chaired it from 2010 up to the present day, while also being active in many other organisations and activities in the area.
She was involved with the Kirkby Stephen Local Links office, served as a volunteer at the town’s visitor centre and was part of the United Charities organisation.
With a team she organised and arranged flowers at the parish church and also helped with soup and puddings and at church lunches.
With Kirkby Stephen Chamber of Trade, she helped to promote local businesses across the area.
Joan helped to organise the Kirkby Stephen Christmas lights, was one of those behind the town’s win in the Cumbria in Bloom competition, helped with the Meals on Wheels service in the town and surrounding villages, and volunteered with Eden Housing Association, which she chaired from 2007 to 2011.
Additionally, she gave talks for the Red Cross on home nursing and first aid and provided first aid training to the local mountain rescue team.
She was a trustee of the John Strutt Charity, which was set up to help those in need in Kirkby Stephen and support local churches.
John Mounsey, the charity’s chairman, said: “Joan was an invaluable trustee, partly because of her vast knowledge of the community but also for her wisdom and fairness in supporting claims. She accomplished so much without any fuss or ‘side’.”
It was in 2011 that she won the chairman’s award in the Eden Local Heroes scheme.
She received an invitation to visit Buckingham Palace in recognition of all the work she had done for Kirkby Stephen, and also met Prince Charles through her involvement with Eden Housing Association.
Along with all of Joan’s work in the community, her true love was her family, and those who knew her say how she always talked with such pride about her grandchildren.
She would often been seen at the side of a rugby or hockey pitch rallying the children’s teams or sitting proudly in the audience at one of the many shows and concerts at Barnard Castle School.
Large family gatherings were much loved events at Eden Close.
Joan still found time to travel the world with Stuart, and often also with her sister Ruth and her husband Bob. Countries they enjoyed visiting included New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Barbados, the USA, Zimbabwe, Thailand and Norway.
She is survived by her husband Stuart, Kirkby Stephen; son Andrew, Kirkby Stephen; daughter Sarah, Warcop; brother George, Newbiggin-on-Lune; and sister Ruth, Halesowen. She had four grandchildren, Jessica, Grace, George and Harry.
Her funeral cortege will leave the family home at 10-25am on Tuesday, 16th February, travelling up Nateby Road and on to South Road, High Street, Market Street and Redmayne Road, and then from Johnstone’s Garage to the parish church, finally passing through Kirkby Stephen before heading to Beetham crematorium.
A celebration of her life will be held at a later date. Glynn Jones Funeral Directors, Appleby, have charge of the arrangements.