Davina Joan O’Donnell 1925-2018

After a childhood spent in Gorleston,  Joan’s three elder brothers, Archie, Ernest and Bill all volunteered to join the Army at the start of World war II, and insisted that Joan and her mother leave Gorleston and move to Scotland to be near family, as East Anglia was considered at risk of invasion.

Joan had enjoyed school up to that date, starring as Portia in the ‘Merchant of Venice’, appointed sports captain for girls, taking part in athletics and games which included a near miss to her eye from a hockey ball.

Once in Scotland, she joined County Food Control to help with the dispensing of food stamps.  When she was 18, the following year, she volunteered to join the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.  She learnt to drive both cars and lorries in the days of double de-clutch.  She remembered one of her first outings in a lorry driving down a country lane, a cyclist coming the other way took one look at her face peering over the wheel of the lorry and jumped with his bicycle into a ditch until she had safely passed.

Joan vividly remembered one night, when to avoid an anticipated targeted German attack, she drove a lorry loaded with live ammunition from one side of London to the other, in convoy, through the blitz.  Joan was mainly based in South East London during the war driving a brigadier in his staff car to inspect the gun sites in the royal parks and the London munitions sites.

After the war, Joan was offered a place at Goldsmiths Art School but, finding herself in a class with accredited war artists, decided she wasn’t skilled enough and that she would study domestic science and home economics at Cardiff with her best friend Wendy.  However, painting continued to be a source of great pleasure throughout her life.

Once qualified, Joan returned to Gorleston to live with her mother as her three brothers were now married.  Joan was appointed manager of the Brunswick Hotel in Great Yarmouth and remembered busy Saturdays coordinating up to three wedding parties in one afternoon. She then went on to teach domestic science, first in Norwich and then at the Edward Worledge Senior School in Great Yarmouth. During the 1953 floods, Joan borrowed a family bicycle and rode through the floods to help clear up the mess left behind in the ovens and on the equipment in the domestic science rooms. When she left the school to get married she held a tea party for some of the older girls.

After  marrying Maurice she helped him with the administrative side of running a busy sole general practitioners practice in King Street, Great Yarmouth, together with looking after their three daughters.

Great Yarmouth was a busy holiday seaside town in those days and she remembered pushing the pram with Clare in it down York Road for a walk one day with Micky the family dog on a lead.  Micky suddenly refused to go any further, she saw to her horror on the other side of the road, a trainer from the circus exercising a lion on a lead.

Joan had a great sense of style and was a good needlewoman.  She made dresses, coats and hats for all three daughters who when they were older enjoyed choosing patterns and fabric which she would make up for them.

Joan was a wonderful cook who enjoyed preparing dinner parties and entertaining visiting family and friends, making it all appear effortless. She enjoyed experimenting with new dishes and menus and was a great fan of Graham the Galloping Gourmet and Keith Floyd. When she could no longer entertain, she greatly relished going out to lunch with her daughters and their families.

When Maurice’s GP practice merged in the 1960s, the family moved  to Marine Parade in Gorleston. Joan loved the garden and discovered a talent for growing flowers and vegetables from seed.  She successfully grew sweet peas, tomatoes, courgettes, runner beans, peas and herbs every year. She also loved being able to walk down to the beach from the house, to swim in the sea with Maurice at lunch time.

Joan took great pleasure in her role as a grandmother to her five grandchildren, Sophie, James, Georgia, Joel and Matthew and her step-granddaughter, Jo.

When her daughter Maggie was teaching at Elmtree Primary in Lowestoft, Joan attended Maggie’s class every week to hear the children read.

The weekly art group meetings in Gorleston were a source of friendship, fun and inspiration for Joan after Maurice’s death.  She carried on attending even after her move to Beccles until she became too frail to continue.  She has left behind many treasured framed paintings which hang on her daughters’ walls.

After her move to Homefield Paddock in Beccles, Joan found a friendly community of neighbours and enjoyed the regular coffee mornings.

Joan’s last few months were spent at Holmwood Residential Home in Bungay, were she appreciated the supportive care and attention she received from the wonderful staff there.