Many people have died in this Coronavirus pandemic, and one of the great sadnesses is that we haven’t been able to come together to say goodbye and to give thanks for their lives. And when it’s someone who has been a big part, not only of our family, but also of our community, that is especially sad.
Joy Astall was one of those people who touch many lives. Originally from Warwickshire, she came to Leeds to train to be a midwife – and never left! Joy was a District Midwife for over 30 years. She was known to many families all over Beeston and Holbeck, and in Middleton too, when she covered Mary, the midwife there. She would drive around in her little orange VW Beetle, often with her corgi, Wilhun – named after two Leeds Untied players: Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter.
As a midwife Joy had a very special role – Sister Draper was well-loved by her mums. She was loyal and dedicated, staying with her mums until their baby was born, even if it was well after the time when she was due to stop working. At that time most births were at home; here’s one little story – Joy was an avid Leeds United fan, a season ticket holder – I gather there would sometimes be a call out over the tannoy during a match for Sister Draper, when one of her mums had gone into labour and she was needed.
She went to one mum, Brenda, after an afternoon match between Leeds and Man City. Brenda was deemed to be OK for a while so Joy regaled the new Dad-to-be with how well her team had played while Brenda gripped the arm of her chair ever harder! When neither she (nor the chair) could stand it no longer she suggested to Joy it was time they went upstairs – and baby Clare was born 20 minutes later! Leeds won by the way.
Joy thought she’d helped to deliver over 1500 babies in the community, not including those when she worked in hospital!
I’ve only known Joy for the last 7 years since I’ve been Vicar at St Mary’s, but I quickly saw how big a part of the church she was. She took communion out to people who couldn’t get to church, and would accompany me to Sunnyview each month for the service there.
Joy married Brian 10th December 1983 at St. Mary’s and they developed an interest in gardening. They were asked to look after the church garden, later taking on the St David’s garden as well. Through their hard work we were awarded gold awards for 18 years in a row, spring and summer, in the Leeds in Bloom awards. And when judging day happened they would be there in the garden to show the judges around, not only helping the church to win Gold but also contributing to the award for Beeston in Bloom, which they’d joined.
In the last few years Joy was getting to be a bit unstable on her feet but she didn’t like to give up. Even when she and Brian had stepped down from being the church gardeners, you’d still find her clearing out the old bedding plants, or pruning the roses.
Joy loved children – her nephews and nieces all remember going on holiday with Auntie Joy. And all our church children knew her as Auntie Joy – she and Brian were always giving them little presents and encouraging them in all they did. She encouraged many people: Peter our organist remembers Joy encouraging him when he was learning as a youngster.
Joy did so much more; our cake stalls at St. Mary’s, and at the Beeston Festival usually had a number of Joy’s cakes on them – she made them by the dozen! And she was a great knitter. She discovered that I often wear fingerless gloves in the colder weather, and she kept me regularly supplied. And our Church Magazine was sent far and wide to people Joy had met on holiday and kept in touch with.
Joy was a good friend to many, a loving wife to Brian, a loyal servant of the church, a hard worker – a ‘doer’ as someone described her. She will be greatly missed.
We’re looking at ways to mark her life and we hope that when circumstances allow we will have a celebration of her life at St Mary’s – and we hope all her family and friends will be able to come. We’re also having a collection to buy something in memory of Joy at St. Mary’s – possibly something in the garden. If you’d like to give in memory of Sister Draper, our Joy, please drop it into St. Mary’s or get in touch and I’ll give you the bank details.
God bless you, Joy, rest in peace.
This post was written by Rev Lindsey Pearson
Photo: Joy, on the right in the blue dress, with one of her mums and ‘babies’, Marjorie and Mark. Joy became part of their family and enjoyed many holidays with them.
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