Doreen Alice Ranson 1926-2015
LANDGIRL, WIFE, MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER AND CHARITY VOLUNTEER
from a tribute given at St Saviour’s Parish Church, Westgate on Sea, Kent
6 February 2015 by Dr Keith White of Mill Grove in South Woodford
Doreen, the youngest of three siblings, was born on 21 March 1926 on the Becontree Estate, Dagenham. Her father Frank had worked for the Port of London Authority for 25 years. Her brothers, Frank and Leonard, were considerably older than her and she was always seen as the baby or the little one of the family. When her mother Sarah died on 15 October 1928 the little 30 month old Doreen experienced a period of her life when, in her father’s words, she was ‘pushed from pillar to post’. With friends, he desperately tried to provide shelter and care for her in Bow where he had his roots. Doreen attended St Paul’s School there until Standard 6. The final straw came when her father was hospitalised and off work for four months with a chronic stomach condition. His mother, Doreen’s grandmother Rosina, was a member of a Baptist Church in Mile End, and through this church she had come to know of the home now called Mill Grove. Doreen’s father pleaded with my grandfather, Herbert White, that Doreen should be cared for in the home and on Friday 28 February 1936, when she was almost 10 years old, that is what happened.
Doreen lived for three years in the home in South Woodford and then, when the War began, everyone moved to The Grove in Tiptree, Essex. Her school reports, a Scripture examination and letters to her family show that somehow throughout this period Doreen managed to thrive. Just after turning 16, Doreen left Tiptree to live with her maternal grandmother near two of her maternal cousins. Leonard took the ultimate responsibility for her but at a distance because of his postings in the War. Doreen served as a shorthand typist and then volunteered to join the Land Army.
This took her to Little Clacton and close to the Ranson family. The rest is history! Doreen became engaged to Ken (Henry Kenneth) in November 1944 and they were married by the Bishop of Barking in Barking Abbey on April 6 1946. Stella was born in August 1948, and her brother David followed two years later in November 1950. In September 1949 Ken joined the Essex Police Force until his retirement in 1978. During this time the family lived in a succession of five police houses dotted around the county, the most memorable of which was in Tiptree where he served as the village policeman for 11 years. For Doreen, of course, it was like coming back home.
In 1978 Doreen and Ken moved to Westgate on Sea in Kent. Doreen, having previously worked as a nursing auxiliary at the Essex County Hospital in Colchester, began working first in the Princess Mary Hospital and then in the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary Hospital. They led an active social life not least trips at home and abroad in their VW camper and times spent with their children and grandchildren. Doreen was so proud to be the grandmother of Hayley, Peter, Graham and Stephen and eventually the great-grandmother of Harry!
The sudden blow of Ken’s death in August 1989, aged just 65, might for many have spelt a withdrawal from work and activity but, although it was very hard for Doreen, she dug deep and, with companionship and encouragement, she reacted positively. So it was that from 1991 Doreen became enthusiastically involved in her local community, gathering in the process many good friends. They included those associated with St Saviour’s Parish Church and School, the Ladies Circle, the Friends of the Church, the Heritage Centre, the Residents Association, members of the QEQM League of Friends and North East Kent National Trust.
She went on walking holidays and loved Snowdonia, a favourite holiday haunt when the children were young. She climbed the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales and scaled Snowdon for the last time in her seventies. And then, when others might be thinking of a more sedate way of life, she began to go on trips with Archway collecting and delivering aid to Romanian schools, an orphanage and a hospital. She went 11 times in all.
The final period of her life started at the beginning of 2013 when Doreen accidentally somersaulted down a staircase and spent five months in hospital recovering from her injuries. She then spent three happy months in Eaton Lodge before deciding to move to Cambridge to be closer to her family. In Cambridge Manor she lived for another 17 happy months, before passing away peacefully in her sleep on 13 January 2015.
Doreen’s is an inspiring story. She was a person who drew deep from her inner resources, from family and friends and from her Christian faith. It is a life of which her family can be justly proud. But as we reflect on it there are some threads to bring together. Doreen had two families throughout most of her life: her birth family and the other family known as Mill Grove. Together with mutual respect and love the two families provided the ‘village’ in which Doreen found security and love.
Why did she spend so much time, money and effort to help orphans, the poor and the sick in Romania? She gives us the answer in a letter written in July 1997. ‘In some ways I feel I am saying thank you to Pop White, Ma Hutchin and the Family – for the hands that reached out to me when I was a little girl’.
Doreen managed to navigate her way through a confusing childhood to lead a full and fulfilled life. There is never a hint of bitterness in anything she ever wrote or said to me, but rather a readiness to smile, to help, to serve, to give to others.
Doreen is laid to rest with her late husband in Thanet Crematorium in Margate.