Joan Ivy Wallbridge Bardsley – Methuen, MA
Above her kitchen stove hangs a decorative dishtowel with simple words reflecting what really mattered to Joan Bardsley, “It’s the little things in life…” Joan would rather take a ride to Newfound Lake, N.H. than a trip to Europe, would prefer a pork pie from Twaites than a fillet mignon in a fancy Boston restaurant, and would enjoy a chat with a friend more than a TV show about the rich and famous. Although she was a person who protected her privacy and embodied Robert Frost’s line about stone walls making good neighbors, Joan was at heart a people person and loved experiencing simple, down-to-earth interactions, be they with her long time friend from her London years, a cherished neighbor from Noyes Street, or someone she had just met at Market Basket.
Joan Ivy Wallbridge was born in the North East Ham Sub-District of London, England on March 30, 1925, to Frederick George Victor and Ivy Gwendoline (Beresford) Wallbridge. Joan was the fourth of eight children, the others all being boys: Victor, Ralph, Reginald, Lenard, Robert, Douglas, and Peter. Her early family life was impacted by the economic depression in England and the early death of her father. As an adolescent she worked in London during the years England was at war with Nazi Germany and endured the trauma of the blitz. One of the stories from those days that she would share was showing up for work at Hitchcock Williams and Company one day to find the building had been destroyed during the night’s bombing. Embracing the British slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” the company immediately relocated, and Joan was back at work the following day.
It was during those war years Joan met an American B-17 crew member (ball turret gunner) George Carleton Bardsley of the 3035 Army Air Force Base Unit. They were married in St. Michael’s Parish Church, Camden Town, London on October 24, 1944. Their first child, Geoffrey Carl, was born in 1945. A year later, with her infant in her arms and her earthly possessions in two suitcases, Joan climbed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel that had been designated to bring British war brides to join their husbands in the United States. Joan with her son Geoffrey took up residence with George’s parents, George Arthur and Alice E. (Craven) Bardsley in Lawrence, MA. George, Joan and Geoffrey lived for a brief period of time in Wala Wala, WA. Upon returning to MA, they soon bought a house in Methuen, MA, where Joan lived for seventy-three years. Joan enthusiastically assumed the occupation of housewife and mother. Her family grew on September 29, 1949 with the birth of Michael Robin, and again on October 23, 1950 with the addition of Linda Louise.
It was a very proud day for her when, on September 13, 1957, Joan Ivy Bardsley became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. Anyone who knew Joan can attest to her patriotic devotion for her adopted country. Among her heroes was General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower (along with, or course, English Prime Minister Winston Churchill.) One of the highlights of her recent years was when her sons Geoffrey and Michael brought her to Washington D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial, of which she a Lifetime Charter Member.
On Tuesday, October 1, 1968, Joan’s British grit was severely challenged by the untimely death of her husband George, age 54. A woman whose adult life had been defined by being a wife and mother now, Joan was forced to learn how to drive, take over the financial management of her home, and find fulltime employment. Once again she successfully proved herself a survivor, and she did it with humility, optimism and grace.
Those meeting Joan for the first time were charmed by her still evident British accent as well as her natural cheery disposition. Her conversations were often embellished with English sayings such as, “And Bob’s your Uncle…but Charlie’s not your Aunt,” and “God bless your cotton socks.” She loved to read and cherished her books, including the works of Dickens, Hardy, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, and George Eliot. Likewise, she greatly enjoyed BBC programs, from vintage reruns such as “Are Your Being Served?” and “Waiting for God” and “Jeeves and Wooster” to more recent shows such as “Vicious” and “Vera.” Joan also enjoyed collecting, and in addition to her vast collection of Teddy Bears, she at various times collected Santa Clauses, Lenox China, Wedgewood Ware, Pilgrim Glass and various representation of birds. Watching the activity in her backyard birdfeeders brought her much joy, as did gardening. While she possessed her physical ability to plant, weed and deadhead, her rock garden was quite beautiful, and her yard admired by many.
Though a frugal Yankee at heart living on a limited income, Joan was extraordinarily generous to various community organizations and charitable causes as well as to her family, assisting her daughter and her son-in-law to buy their first home and occasionally sneaking a financial gift to her grandsons Michael and Stephen, who were the joys of her life.
On Setember 29, 2020 at approximately 11:00 PM, Joan, with the presence of her longtime primary care giver, her son Michael, passed from this world to the next. She is survived by brothers Robert and Peter, both in England; son Geoffrey of St. Petersburg, FL; son Michael of Northampton, MA; by daughter Linda and son-in-law James Annear of Arlington, MA; grandsons Michael Annear and Stephen Annear and his partner Jillian Fennimore; and her delightful great granddaughter Ruby Louise.
She is also survived by several nieces and nephews and their families in the United Kingdom. In addition, Joan will be missed by numerous friends and neighbors whom she held dearly in heart.
The family wishes to thank the numerous professional care givers who worked with Joan in recent months, including her PCP Doctor Trisha Allman and her staff, especially Georgia and Donna; her longtime health aide Luisa; the three sisters Tania, Miriam and Ana Maria; Beacon Hospice staffers RN Marcy, RN Jackie, aide Deborah and liaison Rich; and Doreen and Rosa from Geriatric Services. This dedicated team worked 24/7 over the past several weeks to keep Joan comfortable during her declining days.
Due to Joan’s wishes as well as the COVID-19 health crisis, the burial and graveside service will be private.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
Friends of Nevins Memorial Library
Methuen, MA 01844
Shriners Hospital for Children
51 Blossom Street
Boston, MA 02114
Message from the Primary Care Giver
For the past several decades I have spent many if not most of my birthdays with mum. During the years before I retired I would take a “Personal Day” from work and take her on a day trip to Newfound Lake, Ogunquit, Rock Port or one of her other favorite spots. It’s a tradition she and I did together, going back to the 1980’s.
This year however, things were obviously going to be different.
For several days mum’s condition was such that she could barely get out of bed, and then only to use the commode. The recliner on the other side of the small room became as Great Britain; she was not likely to reach either. Speaking became increasingly difficult; the few words she uttered were often unclear. She could no longer digest solid food. Being on hospice, she was being given morphine at regular intervals to make her “comfortable.”
Monday morning (9/28) I heard a noise coming from her bed. (I had spent the last four weeks sleeping in the recliner in her room.) In the faint glow of the nightlight I see mum sitting up in bed, something she had not done on her own for several days. “Mum,” says I, “Is there anything wrong?”
“Tomorrow is your birthday and I don’t have anything for you.” This from the woman who has uttered only a few words in the past twenty-four hours.
For a second I think I am in a dream. Mum had not had a clear sense of time for weeks. I climbed out of the recliner and hold her hand. “Don’t worry mum. Your being here will be present enough for me.” She lays back and falls asleep.
Fast forward to 2:00 AM Tuesday morning. I wake to check to see if mum is still breathing. She is; I kiss her on the forehead and whisper into her ear, “Happy Birthday to the both of us.” She struggles to open an eye, her right one, and with effort mumbles, “Happy Birthday.”
She spent most of Tuesday in a sound, morphine fed sleep. I sat bedside for a good deal of that time. At the end of the day, around 11:00 PM, she passed away.
Her “Happy Birthday” to me had been her last words. And that last day she had spent in bed was my birthday present.
God Bless, Mother.
Your son Michael
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