‘Humbled by mum’s courage and love’

Barbara Joan Atherton.

Barbara Joan Atherton. - Credit: Archant

A WESTON woman who touched the lives of hundreds of people through her ‘dauntless courage’ and committed community work has died aged 92.

Barbara Atherton (nee Salway), known to many around the town as Babs, was a familiar face around Weston due to the decades she dedicated to church and youth groups and the Scouting movement.

Born in 1920 in Axbridge, she went to school in Axbridge and Winscombe before her family moved to Weston when she was 14 years old.

Her early working life included positions at Charles Coles Jewellers and Weston Library, before she joined the Women’s Defence Volunteers at the outbreak of World War Two.

Although she learned to shoot a rifle, Babs opted for a role as an air raid warden after deciding that she ‘couldn’t shoot someone, even if they were a German’.


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The warden role was a vital one, however, and after Weston was twice struck by German air raids in 1941 and 1942, she worked as a messenger and helped to dig injured people from the rubble.

It was during the war that she married Jack Atherton in a bomb-scarred St Paul’s Church. After the war had finished, the couple set up home, and a new upholstery business, in Weston’s Burlington Street.

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Babs had four children between 1944 and 1964, and sampled a number of careers, including a silver service waiting position at the Grand Atlantic Hotel, where she counted Diana Dors and Cary Grant among her patrons.

The family lived first in Weston, then Worle and later in Hewish, living ‘the good life’ with a smallholding featuring goats, pigs, horses and more.

However, it is Babs’ unstinting community work which many will remember her for, including her devoted contributions to Christ Church, St Peter’s Church, The Church Army, St John Ambulance and the Scout Association.

She made major contributions to the running of the 24th Hill Road Weston and 29th St Peter’s cub and scout groups, and her 25-year contribution to the movement earned her a long service award and a medal of merit.

Although a stroke in 2003 – followed by the onset of dementia – meant she required constant care from son Mark and daughter Doreen, her family say she retained her keen sense of humour.

Mark and Doreen said: “She faced this with the same dauntless courage with which she had faced all the challenges in her life. She still had her sense of humour and always had a smile and kind word for everyone.

“She always said ‘life is a gift to be used well’ and she used hers to the fullest, and helped everyone that she could.

“At 92, she could still light up the room with her smile. We only know that her love, kindness and courage humbled us.

“We are lucky to have had such an amazing lady in our life.”

Babs’ funeral will take place at Christ Church in Montpelier at 2pm on February 21, followed by a committal at Weston Crematorium in Ebdon Road at 3pm and a reception at the Grand Atlantic Hotel. All who knew and loved Babs are welcome.

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