Barbara Frances Heath
Barbara Frances Heath
born 10 December 1953
died 3 October 2015
About the Donor
My late sister, Barbara Frances Heath (née Watt), was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in September 2014. Although she received the most wonderful treatment and support from all the staff members at Mount Veron Hospital, in Northwood, Middlesex, after a courageous and determined struggle against this horrific illness, she finally passed away peacefully at 5.00 a.m. on Saturday, 3rd October 2015, at the age of only 61 years.
Her husband, David, and her 3 children, Tom, Alice and Jess, were all present together at her bedside.
Barbara was two years younger than me. We were both born into a Jewish family of modest means living in Hackney, East London, shortly after the Second World War.
Our Dad, Bob Watt, worked as an electrician and by sheer hard work built up a successful business as an electrical contractor. Our Mum, Lily Watt (née Lustig) gave up working in a ladies' wear shop to look after her two children full time.
I remember that Barbara was always very creative as a young child: she wrote the most wonderful short stories and also won a school prize for her poetry. She was an avid reader: the bookcase in her bedroom was crammed full of children's books. She was also a gifted musician. She began by learning the recorder, then our parents bought a second-hand upright piano for her to learn and practice on. She also went on to learn the acoustic guitar (with some tuition from our elder Cousin Bob) and accompanied herself with a beautiful singing voice. (Jess has inherited her Mum's abilities, as she's also a really talented musician, playing both piano and saxaphone.) This creativity continued well into her adult life: for example, she baked the most wonderful cakes for every family celebration, long before the Great British Bake Off was ever thought of.
Barbara was always able to shoulder heavy responsibilities throughout her life. When she was only 21, she gave up her teacher training course at Trent Park College to nurse our Mum full time when she was terminally ill with cancer.
Barbara and David met in 1975 and soon afterwards became engaged. They were married on 7 July 1977, a beautiful summer day, and were very happily married for 38 years and utterly devoted to each other and their children. They enjoyed many delightful family holidays together and, on one occasion, David took her on a surprise trip to Venice, her favourite city.
When David was still completing his law studies to qualify as a solicitor, Barbara became the principal wage earner for them both. Barbara had a varied working life, performing each and every different role especially well. As a civil servant, she was secretary to the Head of the Health and Safety Executive. She then worked for Repco, a firm based nearer to home. When the company moved back to Australia, the director offered her a job there. Barbara subsequently became secretary to Baron Solly Zuckerman, the President of the London Zoo. She then gave up work to look after her children and thoroughly enjoyed life as a full time Mum.
However, when Barbara was in her late thirties, she became seriously ill from Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS); her life was in danger, but doctors were fortunately able to save her. She then became involved in a successful campaign against the product which caused TSS in some women. This involved addressing politicians at the Houses of Parliament.
Career & Commitments
As a result of this illness, Barbara suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and subsequently underwent supportive counselling. This gave Barbara the idea of becoming a counsellor too, so she studied to qualify as a counsellor and psychotherapist. She was awarded a M.A. by East London University and was a Senior Accredited Practitioner of both the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and the U.K. Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Amongst other aspects, her work mainly involved helping many alcoholics and drug users to overcome their addictions and she specialised in trauma care.
Barbara worked with schools, hospitals, youth centres and companies and was also a visiting lecturer at Harrow College, tutoring and supervising the studies of trainee counsellors, who could then go out into the world and continue her work by helping still more patients. She organised and participated in numerous seminars, workshops and day schools. Her professional reputation was such that prominent charities sought out her services in training their own counsellors.
Despite her busy family and working life, amazingly enough, Barbara still found time to write a novel about the impact of trauma.
The Family says...
I am especially proud of everything my sister achieved in her all too brief life and the immense courage, dignity and determination she showed in fighting her illness throughout. The tribute her Family provided at her funeral was the most moving of all the many other services I have ever attended. Over 130 people were present to pay their respects, with standing room only.
The "Just Giving" website set up by her Family has raised almost £4,000 for the Michael Sobell Hospice, where she was treated, with 86 donations.
Over and above her considerable professional achievements, Barbara was a dedicated wife and a wonderful Mum: the devotion she inspired from David and her wonderful children was truly remarkable and they are all her lasting legacy to all of us.
When I look back over my Sister's life, I am reminded of the famous passage from the Torah:
"A woman of worth who can find? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband trusteth in her; and he shall have no lack of gain. She doeth him good and not evil all the days of her life. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she putteth forth her hands to the needy. Strength and majesty are her clothing; and she laugheth at the time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and the law of loving-kindness is on her tongue. She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying: Many daughters have done worthily, but thou excellest them all."
I shall always think of my Sister every single day and shall try my utmost to honour her memory.
I hope that the plaque on the Wall of Honour will serve in a modest way to commemorate her untimely passing.
Gary Kennneth Watt - Trainee ITS Researcher, The Wiener Library