Mrs. Barbara Owen MBE (12 March 1921 – 23 December 2019)

16th January 2020

Barbara Owen (nee Gravestock) was a Rickmansworth girl from the day she was born. She lived in the centre of Rickmansworth, with her parents and elder sister Marion. She excelled in school and gained a scholarship to Watford Grammar School for Girls at the age of ten.  

Barbara continued to shine and became Head Girl there. After her schooling, she pursued a teaching career. She moved to Bournemouth during the war years to finish her training and when the war ended, moved to London for her first teaching post. It was at this time she was introduced to her future husband Jack Owen. He had just retired from the Merchant Navy after 14 years’ service as a Lieutenant. The following year in 1947 they were married in St Mary’s, Rickmansworth. 

Her early married life was very happy and four daughters arrived in fairly quick succession. However, Barbara had many challenges in her life and Jack suffered eighteen months of tuberculosis whilst the girls were young in the 1950s. Barbara managed to survive and care for the whole family, with her skill in needlework and cooking. She ensured the family enjoyed healthy, nutritious meals. Jack recovered but in 1963 suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.  

Barbara was left a widow with four girls to bring up and facing considerable death duties. She returned to teaching and was helped by the fact that she had been a Head Examiner for school exam papers. She was interviewed at Watford Grammar School for Girls, where she had been Head Girl and a post was created for her there, which enabled her to gain her way back to the world of teaching. 

She taught in various schools, including Joan of Arc and Clement Danes and did not finally stop teaching until she reached her eighties! Alongside her teaching work, Barbara has given her all to her community in the various voluntary roles she took on in Rickmansworth. She also headed up the catering committee at St. Mary’s and was Chair of Three Rivers Museum Trust for many years until her death. She was also secretary of the Ricky Society and loved her involvement with the costume department of the Museum of London. 

Barbara was awarded the MBE for services to the Community in 2011 at the remarkable age of ninety and had her award presented by Prince Charles.  

She gradually became frailer over the following years and spent her last few weeks cared for in Watford General Hospital, still mentally alert but with physical frailties. She gave so much to her community, her focus was always others and not herself. Barbara often said how grateful she was to everyone, however, we are grateful to her for all she has done and her example is difficult to follow. 

You could speak to Barbara about anything and she had no airs or graces, she made you laugh with her humour and expressions and she remained positive to the end and grateful for all that life had given her.  

There will only ever be one Barbara, a person we are privileged to have known and loved. She will always be remembered and like her, we should be grateful. 

Chairman of Three Rivers District, Paula Hiscocks, said: “Barbara was personification of the wonderful community spirit which we have in Rickmansworth . Always organised, cheerful and totally in control from teas at Bury Fete day to trophies on behalf of Ricky Society or establishing Three Rivers museum! We all have so much to thank Barbara for. It was a privilege to have known and worked alongside her.”