It is often said that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they surround themselves with. Whether it’s a particular taste in music, or fashion, comedy or politics, friendship is based on values, likes and dislikes shared by people.
William Shakespeare said “We are advertis’d by our loving friends”. In other words, the friends that we have say a lot about us as a person. So what do Louise’s friends ‘say’ about her?
She had so many friends – from different times in her life, from different backgrounds. Friends were important to Louise and, it seems, once made were never lost or forgotten. She made friends wherever she went. She surrounded herself with people. “Our friends are our family,” she would say.
What you ‘advertise’ about Louise is that she was a caring and generous woman; unselfish, fair and supportive, with a sense of fun and enjoyment; a delight and interest in life and in the lives of people she surrounded herself with.
Add to that ‘organised’, ‘competitive’ and ‘a fighter’, just a few of the words that have been used to describe Louise, and I would say you have a great picture of the remarkable woman we are here to remember today.
Louise Margaret Weatherhead was born on 7 July 1951 at the Monroe Devis maternity hospital in Tiddington.
She grew up in Stratford with her parents, Bill and Betty Robbins and big sister, Sheila; firstly in College Street, in Old Town, and then Drayton Avenue where her mother still lives.
She was a local girl, through and through. Fiercely proud of her Stratford roots, she adored her town.
It was here that she met her husband, Lez, when she was 17, selling raffle tickets at a dart’s night in the Cross Keys pub. They were married in 1971, in this church, and together they had three children, Wayne, Brett and Donna. In November last year Lez and Louise celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary, a testament to the strength of their marriage and relationship.
And it was here in Stratford that she began to build the great circle of friends that she had throughout her life. She met her best friend, Val, at the Technical College in Henley Street when they were 16 years old. Jill, another school friend, emigrated to Australia but Louise kept in touch. Her close friend Sara she met through netball. Along with other close friends like Mick and Cynth who would go away for weekend trips with Louise and Lez. And she even knew Bryan, Lez’s lifetime business partner, before Lez did, because they used to play together in Old Town at the tender age of 4.
Louise had many friends: from school, college, work, neighbours, darts, netball, social clubs, friends of her children, her family, through fund raising, volunteering and holidays. There are too many individuals to mention this morning but I know from the amount of cards and support the family have received and from the number of people here today that she had lots of friends from all parts of her life.
“Our friends are our family” – Louise meant that. Bordon Place became a home from home for many, whether it was for the famous Sunday dinners or needing a place to stay, no matter who turned up, they all got fed and watered. Stig, Wayne’s best friend, lived next door in Bordon Place but always regarded Louise, and Lez, as his mum and dad. And Louise, in turn, treated him as a son.
When Lyndon, another friend of Wayne’s, had nowhere to stay Wayne took him back to Louise and Bordon Place and he lived there, on and off, for over seven years; he’s staying there now.
When Uncle Rex and Aunty Betty (who weren’t actually her aunt and uncle but looked after her as a child), reached their later years, she cared for them, along with working and bringing up her own family.
She was a true friend to many, whether it was looking out for those that needed that extra bit of help, supporting people if they needed it or involving them in activities and events… like going on holiday.
Ah. The holidays. They started modestly enough, when the family would go and join Lez’s parents who enjoyed ballroom dancing in Torquay. Donna took her friend, Tash. And Wayne took his friend… then the friends took friend’s and then they took their families and so it began. It was not unusual to have a group of nearly 50 people for the annual pilgrimage! And at the heart of it, booking rooms, collecting deposits and organising, was Louise. She was delighted that people continue to go to Torquay, seeing the next generation going together and creating happy memories.
There were other holidays, including trips to Devon and Cornwall, with many family members and her children’s friends. But Lez and Louise did manage to escape on holiday on their own sometimes. They travelled to America five times, as well as Australia to see her friends Jill and Don and to South Africa to see family members. They would sneak off over Christmas for a break away from the business and the UK weather. In between they would fit in weekends away visiting friends. They always joked with the people they met on holiday, “Don’t invite us to stay because we turn up!”
As important as friends were to Louise, her family meant everything to her. She was at the heart of her family. If “Our friends are our family” was true, then for Louise, her family were also her friends. Whether it was the snooker club, the Embassy Club, Celebrities or Bordon Place BBQ’s Louise and Lez would be there, enjoying themselves with their children.
It is the lot of most mothers to become their children’s chauffeur and this was certainly true for Louise. She would drive them and their friends to youth clubs, days out and sports. She didn’t like to leave anyone out and was proud of the fact she once managed to fit 10 passengers – all the children from Bordon Place including her own – in her car for a day out to Ragley Hall.
She was always supportive of her family in what they did. She followed the boys when they played league football; then Wayne while he was competing at motocross; she drove Donna to gymnastics and disco dancing every weekend and she would enjoy fishing with Brett.
Football played a big part in her life; whether it was washing all the kit for the boy’s teams, being a West Bromwich season ticket holder or going to Stratford Town Football Club where she and Lez were the proud owners of season tickets number one and two. Even the family’s pet dogs were named after two Stratford Town players. And she used Stratford Town as a base for many of her fundraising events.
She had a sporty streak herself. At school, Louise had played rounder’s, tennis and did the high jump. But family came along and taking part in sports took a back seat. But then, at the age of 40, when she took Donna to play netball, she decided she’d have another go and began playing competitively again. In the beginning, Louise and Donna played in the same team together but then Louise decided to create her own team ………….but without telling Donna! She ran teams in the Stratford Netball League, wrote the reports for the Herald and played a mean game as Goal Shooter herself.
She played league darts for over 40 years, competing at the Embassy Club and the Snooker Club, alongside her daughter, Donna, and daughter-in-law, Linda, as well as their friends Nikki and Jess amongst others. She last played darts for the Yard of Ale, despite having no feeling in her hands caused by the chemotherapy.
Louise loved being competitive but not just on the oche or on a netball pitch. She enjoyed playing cards to win – and frequently did. She was enthusiastic about and, most importantly, successful at entering competitions. The list of prizes is extensive and impressive: 2 cars, a motorbike, pushbikes, holidays, cases of champagne and tickets to pretty much everything. She opened the refurbished Boots on Bridge Street; she was Sweetex Woman of the Year and was proud to have named an estate in Stratford on the land where she used to play as a child. She was so good at entering competitions that she ended up giving talks to the WI on how to be as successful as she was. People used to say, “You’re so lucky, you always win”, and Louise’s response was, “You have to be in it to win it.”
And, as Lez said, “Every time she won, everybody won.” She would enter competitions in the names of her grandchildren so they could have a lovely surprise arrive in the post at their home. And when she entered competitions and would win something extra – after all, how many toasters can one woman have? – She would then donate it to a raffle or tombola to help raise money for good causes.
She was a tireless fundraiser for 20 years or more, including the Shakespeare and Myton Hospices who cared for her at the end.
That care, that feeling of giving back, whatever you want to call it, was part of Louise right from the beginning. When she was a little girl, at Broad Street School, each child was given a cardboard money box to collect money for Barnados. Each week, from her sixpence pocket money, Louise would always put 2 pence in the Barnados box and 2 pence for Holy Trinity, keeping just 2 pence for herself.
We don’t have the exact figure but it would be safe to say that throughout her life Louise raised thousands of pounds for worthy causes.
Yes, she was a generous woman by her very nature but also a practical and thrifty one too. She liked a good deal and a bargain. If you picked up the newspaper after Louise did, you would find it full of holes; she’d got there first and cut out the coupons and competitions. Pushing Wayne through Stratford in a pushchair years ago, she saw a bag of potatoes fall off a lorry as it took a corner too quickly. Louise didn’t hesitate. Out came Wayne from the pushchair and in went the bag of potatoes to be taken home.
And if you are looking for a good example of a strong work ethic, you need go no further than Louise. She was, there’s no other word for it, a grafter.
Her first job, if you don’t count the paper round at the age of 12, was with Josephs on the Birmingham Road before she moved to Tappex PressAvon where she learnt accounting. From then on, she never seemed to stop. She worked in an advertising and design agency, a laundry, a doctor’s surgery, a newsagents; she worked at The George, The Windmill and the Stags Head behind the bar. After finishing her jobs in the day, she also worked on the twilight shift at Alveston Kitchens and nights at the RSC. At one point, she had three jobs on the go at the same time.
And that doesn’t count her voluntary work. She was, as her husband Lez described her, a ‘do-er’. If you wanted something doing, you asked Louise. Treasurer for Shottery United Football Club, an organiser of Stratford Netball League, kit lady for Sackville Rovers. This was on top of washing motocross kit, netball kit, fishing gear and preparing packed lunches for all the family before they set of on their various hobbies and activities.
We have spoken about the importance of friends in Louise’s life; they say friends are the family you choose. Well, the family she had, were also her friends and she was fiercely proud of them all. A loving wife to her husband, Lez, a devoted mother to her children, Wayne, Brett and Donna and a much loved mother in law to Linda, Matt and Ewelina [pronounced Evalina].
She was a hands on grandmother and was fiercely proud of her 4 – and a half – grandchildren, Tiegan, Kieran, Archie, Freddie and the Bump. In December she was thrilled to hear that Ewelina, Brett’s wife, was pregnant; Brett and Ewelina had gone straight to the hospice to show Louise the first scan of the baby.
Thanks to Facebook, Louise’s battle with cancer was a public one. And that’s when her friends were able to give back the love and the care that Louise had shown to them. The messages of support that she received helped her enormously and gave her strength. She told Wayne, whilst she was in the hospice, that the e-mails of support from both Tina Nurdin and Martine Miller were a great help and comfort.
In November, with thanks to Sharon, Gemma, Helen, Diddy, Louise Hatton and many others who gave up their time, the family were able to organise a ‘celebration of her life’ party which was attended by many of the people in the room today. We know that she had the most amazing time – and not wanting to miss-out on anything it was joked that she had her wake before she had gone.
Louise died, aged 62, after a long battle with cancer. Her doctor, James Scrivens, said she was a fighter. This was sadly one fight that she didn’t win.
To her daughter, Donna, she said, “I’ve had a lucky life.” I would suggest that we were lucky to have had Louise in our lives.
We started with a quote from a famous son of Stratford, William Shakespeare. It seems appropriate, therefore, to finish with another of his quotes that justly describes Louise, a proud Stratfordian herself. These words of Shakespeare, “Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies/A lass unparallel’d”.
Louise was ‘A lass unparalleled’.
Total amount raised £160.00
£10.00 – Offline Donation on 19 January 2015
” from Wayne Weatherhead in memory of Loubie Lou xxx ”
£100.00 – Offline Donation on 27 June 2014
” from friends in America ”
£50.00 donated by Stephen C Weatherhead on 25 March 2014
” A very special person, our lovely Loubie Lou. Love Steve and Jana “