Thursday, 16 September 2021

Jill McCoy: Fun-loving, friendly and forever busy

JILL MCCOY died on October 17 at the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed after a courageous two-year battle with cancer.

JILL MCCOY died on October 17 at the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed after a courageous two-year battle with cancer.

She never complained about her condition, nor took to her bed but continued to squeeze as much out of life as she could.

Jill was born in 1941 in Belfast and educated there. A career in distant parts then beckoned. During the swinging Sixties she worked for several years in Geneva and in the Time Life offices in New York before succumbing to the temptation of working in London, choosing a position there with Reader’s Digest.

It was in London that she met a young architect, Denis, and after a four-week courtship, they were engaged to be married. The pair returned to Ireland a year later to support Denis’ career and it wasn’t long before they thought about starting a family.

Rory was born in Ireland and then Lucy to an accompaniment of sporadic gunfire during a night of sectarian violence around the hospital.

In 1974 the family moved to Henley and Simon was born a year later in the relative calm of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

When the children progressed to school age, Jill returned to work in a part-time temporary post at Shiplake College.

She enjoyed the work and the college community so much that one thing led to another and she continued to work there in various roles for more than 20 years.

Retiring from the college gave her the opportunity to take on new challenges while continuing as book- keeper in Denis’ town planning business. Never one to sit around, Jill was always busy and work was far from the be-all-and-end-all of her life.

Her hobbies were many and varied. Music was important to her. She played the clarinet and sang in many different choirs over the years, Henley Choral Society, Benson Choral Society and the Leighton Park Community Choir to name but three.

With the latter, she valiantly ignored a severe bout of flu in order to travel to Venice where they fulfilled a number of engagements.

The choir was allowed to sing in St Mark’s Basilica with The Silver Swan being one of the numbers, which gave Jill particular pleasure.

Always a character with an enormous sense of fun, Jill then joined Tropico, a steel band, which gave her great enjoyment — even when playing in the rain on the bandstand in Mill Meadows.

Weekly practice nights enabled the band to play at weddings, including Lucy’s in 2001 and even managing a few notes at Rory’s wedding this summer.

Jill was also a very popular and effective member of the town’s twinning link with Falaise and many people will have happy memories of her playing the pans with Tropico at the summer twinning get-together on Maidensgrove Common last summer. She did so many things with flair and enjoyment that she passed on to all who met her.

Painting and pastels were another creative outlet that she enjoyed, exhibiting with the Henley Arts and Crafts Guild and competing successfully in the crafts tent at Henley Show (1st prize!).

Then there was the river and all associated with it — boating, bathing, picnicking and the pleasures of boat ownership. Not to mention the many years acting as a “regatta landlady” where loyal crews from Galway returned year after year for her hospitality and good “craic”.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Jill was also an enthusiastic walker, initially on a casual basis and later as a keen member of the Ramblers.

These activities ensured she lived the time she had to the full and was privileged to have a wide range of friends, as was demonstrated by the 200 people who filled Christ Church for the service celebrating her life on November 2.

Jill’s family would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who attended. The crowd in the Pither Hall afterwards was an eloquent testimony to her capacity for making friends and a humbling experience for her family. She will be greatly missed.

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