Jo Wiltshire

Born 6th May 1919 at Pulborough, Sussex Certificate
Full Name Joyce Mary Wiltshire  
Father Phillip Wiltshire Mother May Wiltshire (m.s. Simpson)
Christened . . at .

Joyce Mary Wiltshire was born on 6th May 1919 to Philip and May Wiltshire at Orchard Way in Thakeham, near Pulborough, West Sussex. This was her grandparents’ house and she returned to live the next 35 years of her life in the family home in Ealing, latterly at 46 The Grove.

Jo (or JoJo as she was often known), was the third of 4 children. Her father, known as Pop, was in the Royal Navy for all of her childhood and she was consequently very close to her mother.

Jo did well at school and passed the exams to go to Drayton Manor grammar school, where she matriculated at the age of 16. In 1939 she stated work in the typing pool of Rootes Group in Acton where she rapidly progressed to becoming secretary to one of the managers.

During the war she continued to work at the Rootes factory, which was busy with work essential to the war effort. In her spare time, she took part in fire watch duties. She once confided that she looked forward, in a funny way, to hearing the air raid sirens as it meant she could have a cigarette on the way down to the shelter. She was not called “Fag Ash Lil” for nothing!

Baby Joyce with her father, 1919. Jo in about 1946. Jo with friends & family, 1960

Before and after the war Rootes had a thriving sports and social club where Jo played badminton regularly and took part in many productions staged by the dramatic society in Acton Town Hall. She was a good actress and she always took a leading role and received some very good reviews. Throughout her life, her clear penetrating actor's voice occasionally caused the family some embarrassing moments when she thought she was whispering but in fact her remarks were heard by all. This was especially true when she became deaf and would say of doctors, social workers etc. “Who is he?",  "What does he want?", "When is he going?", or "What’s he saying?”!

When her parents moved to Sussex in 1952, Jo had moved in with Rootes colleagues Len & Ruby Fisher in Rofant Road, Northwood. In the early sixties her Rootes office in Acton was closed, and Jo was made redundant. She found work as a PA to the managing director of a company called Retail Audits, and she was also the manager of all the other secretaries. She loved her work and was very happy there until she reluctantly retired in 1980. At about the same time. Ruby died, and Jo moved to a maisonette in Tolcarne Road, Northwood.

Jo at Little Scots, 1960 Jo & Vera on holiday, about 1986. Jo with family at 80th birthday party, 1999.

Jo was generous to a fault. When they were children, her nieces played on this, and only had to say “that’s nice” and she would buy it for them. It was usually some little toy, an item of clothing or sweets - they weren't too greedy! She was always game for an adventure especially on foreign holidays of which she had many in her later life. When people were asked for their memories of her, three things were mentioned by all: her loud, distinctive laugh and the fact she was never without her handbag and a cigarette.

To the rest of the family, it always appeared that Jo took no responsibility for her life outside work. This was partly because she had been thoroughly spoilt all her life by her mother, who was still getting her up in the morning, getting her breakfast and making her sandwiches on the day Jo retired! The family were all worried how Jo was going to cope when her mother died, but she surprised everyone by coping really well. She suddenly came into her own, shopping and cooking for herself although on family occasions she still had the knack of disappearing when any chores needed to be done. This is still referred to as “doing a Jo”!

All her life Jo was a gregarious person and made many loyal friends who unfortunately all predeceased her. In her last years in her flat in Northwood she had some lonely times, but given the chance she loved to go out to lunch, especially to a garden centre as gardening had become an interest of hers in later life. When she could no longer cope on her own she went to live at Rutland Home in Reigate, where she was very well looked after. Here, for a while she blossomed, making new friends, becoming queen of the weekly quiz and enjoying playing cards and dominoes.

Unfortunately her memory loss became steadily worse and for the last few years she was not the Jo she had been - but sometimes you could still get her to give her famous laugh.

Jo died on 13th October 2006 aged 87, in East Surrey hospital, Redhill.

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Page last updated 24 October 2006