Chingford URC lost probably the longest standing member of its congregation with the passing of Betty Clayton on 30 November 2019.
Betty grew up in the Church (then known as Chingford Congregational Church) in the 1930s and 40s, progressing through Sunday School, Brownies and the Youth Club.
It was there that she met Henry and they were married in May 1954, remaining happily together for over 65 years. They lived first in Long Deacon Road and over the next few years were blessed with three daughters, Lindsay, Elizabeth and Fiona, all of whom were baptized at Buxton Road.
Despite having a young and growing family and by now living in Buckhurst Hill, Betty volunteered to help with the 5th Chingford Brownies and in no time at all she had become Brown Owl, then continuing to run the pack for so many years that she probably lost count.
As well as that Betty somehow managed to find time to take charge of the Beginners Department of the Junior Family Church, planning their activities each Sunday and continuing to teach the children and show them the love of God until just a few weeks before the end of her life.
Tributes paid to Betty described her as “the ultimate people person” and “a pillar of the Church” and the great affection in which she was held was clearly evident on 19 December when the Church at Buxton Road was packed almost to above its capacity for a service of Thanksgiving, with upwards of 150 people of all ages each wishing to pay their respects and share their memories of Betty and the way she had touched their lives.
So numerous were the clubs and societies of which Betty was a member and so many the charities she supported that there is not space here to refer to them all, but to name a few there were various badminton clubs, the Scottish dancing group and Pilots.
Also never to be forgotten are the summer parties Betty and Henry used to hold each year in aid of UNICEF at their house in Queens Road, the back garden of which was so long it seemed to stretch almost all the way to Woodford Green!
More poignantly was her association with CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), following the unexpected and untimely loss of her granddaughter Jennifer some years ago.
For her many years of service to the people of Chingford, in particular young people, Betty was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2012. Despite this being an achievement to be proud of she modestly kept very quiet about it.
Notwithstanding her failing health, Betty was still active until the end, helping with the arrangements for the forthcoming wedding of her granddaughter Hannah.
Susan and I visited her in October, after she had become no longer well enough to attend Church, and it was typical that her main concern that day was to see that someone would be able to cover for her in organising the flowers for Church the following Sunday and the subsequent dates on which it was her turn to be doing that task.
Even in her final days, Betty was still interested to hear news of the goings on at Church, and particularly things involving the young people.
If one was to try summing up Betty’s life and work it would be to say that she was patient, helpful and kind, bringing joy to so many people, and was strong in service to Christ.
The money raised at Betty’s funeral and since, amounted to £953, which was donated to ‘CRY’ (Cardiac Risk in the Young) in memory of her grand-daughter Jennifer. Henry and his family would like to thank everybody who donated so generously. The money will be used by CRY to screen young people for undiagnosed heart conditions which occur in twelve cases a week throughout the country.