Friday, 25 June 2021

Widow starts friendship club for women like her

HAVING been widowed twice, Gloria Wright knows the importance of having support and companionship.

HAVING been widowed twice, Gloria Wright knows the importance of having support and companionship.

That’s why she’s hopes to start a new Henley group of the Jolly Dollies, a social network for widows.

Mrs Wright was married and widowed within a year after losing her first husband Alan Jenkins to a heart attack in 1973.

Twenty years later she lost her second husband Keith to lung cancer when he was just 46.

The couple were running TravelWright in Friday Street, Henley, when Keith became ill and they had to sell the business.

They had bought the firm when they moved to Henley from Maidenhead five years previously when it was called Leander Travel and was based in Hart Street.

Mrs Wright says: “Keith and I were 24/7 as we spent our working days together. I didn’t just lose a husband, I lost a work colleague and a friend.  I lost my other half — we were a partnership.

“It took me a good five years to recover. I don’t think I stopped crying for two years.”

After Keith’s death, she kept busy by continuing to work at the firm for several years and also became president of the Henley Chamber of Trade and Commerce and a volunteer with St John Ambulance.

Later she became an usher at Reading Crown Court before retiring in 2013. She then volunteered in the box office of the Kenton Theatre in New Street once a week. Now she works as a part-time taxi controller at County Cars in Station Road and hosts her own weekly show on hospital radio serving patients at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

Mrs Wright, who now lives in Twyford, joined one of the Berkshire branches of the Jolly Dollies last year and now wants to start a group in Henley.

She believes there are lots of widows in the area who would enjoy meeting up and appreciate each other’s company.

She says: “I’ll organise somewhere central in town for people to meet and have a coffee. People can bring others along for a taster and if they like it I hope they’ll join.

“Once I’ve got three or four people I’ll hold my first meeting. I really, really hope it takes off.”

The Jolly Dollies’ main purpose is for widows to get together, support each other, make new friends, chat and have fun with others who understand their feelings.

Mrs Wright said: “I read about it in a national newspaper and I went on to the website and thought ‘that looks good’.

“You are actually with somebody who has been through it too, who understands and who’s probably your age.

“I’m not saying every widow is of the older age group — when I was first widowed I was 29 and when I lost Keith I was 48 — but a large percentage are and they have a shared experience.

“I travel a lot by bus and I regularly speak with other ladies. They are often travelling on a bus, not to go anywhere but just to get out of the house because they are lonely. Even if they have got children or grandchildren, they have lost their other half or lost their partner. That’s sad because there’s a lot of us and you don’t actually have to be sitting on a bus riding around the countryside.”

The group she joined usually meets monthly and members have a Sunday lunch together as well as coffee mornings, enabling the women to make firm friendships.

“It promotes friendship,” says Mrs Wright. “At a Sunday lunch I took a friend along with me for a taster and she met someone who lived down the road from her.

“If I didn’t come out I was going to be stuck in my little house all alone and that’s not on and I believe there’s lots of other people out there in the same position. My house is lovely but once I’ve done the housework I’ve done it.

“I also hate shopping alone. I know not everyone feels like that but as a woman I like to say to somebody else, ‘what do you think? Tell me honestly’.”

Mrs Wright insists Keith would have wanted her to enjoy life without him.

“He would be really, really cross with me if I closed the door and did nothing,” she says. “He would regard that as a complete waste and so would I.

“You don’t forget, you will never forget, but it mustn’t stop you living your life.

“I’m just glad I met Keith when I did and we had the life together that we did.”

Membership of the Jolly Dollies costs £10 a year. For more information, visit or email

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