Jenny Biggar RIP

This is a belated tribute to long-time acquaintance, Jenny Biggar (1946-2008), for many years the Treasurer of the Budiriro Trust, a British-Zimbabwean educational charity.  I found the following obituary, written by Ann Young and published in the Loddon Reach Parish Magazine (July/August 2008, 1 (4): 16).

Jenny Biggar died on May 8th [2008] after a valiant fight against Lymphoma. All those who packed into St. Mary’s church for her funeral on May 19th bore witness to a life that had been well lived and truly Christian. It was a wonderfully uplifting service and a tribute to someone who had touched the lives of others, not only here, but across the world, and whose dying had been an example for us all.

Jenny was brought up at Manor Farm in Grazeley and attended the Abbey School in Reading. She was the middle child with two older brothers and two younger sisters. Family life was always central to her so it seemed natural that, when her mother died, she returned to the Farm in 1985 to look after her father and make a home for him. She had spent many years working in Africa, had read English as a mature student and was embarking upon a D.Phil at Oxford when she felt called back to her family. She quickly became a very active member of the Parish with jobs ranging from P.C.C. Secretary, to making curtains for the Church hall. She also worked hard for her two favourite charities – The Budiriro Trust (which maintained her links with Zimbabwe) and the B.R.F. She did some counselling work at the Duchess of Kent House and worked in the Estate Office at Englefield Estate.

Jenny was a wonderful cook and will be remembered for her soup at many Church events. She was a skilled needle woman and an accomplished musician, singing with the Farley Singers, the Dever Singers and the Church choir as well as playing the organ. She was also an intellectual with a deep love of literature.  She was honest and forthright in her opinions, but always with grace and good humour.  Throughout her life Jenny had more than her fair share of difficulties; she fought hard battles to overcome them and developed not only a stoical resistance to pain and discomfort, but huge inner strength. She gave so much to us all and will be sorely missed.”

And here is an obituary by Elspeth Holderness in the 2007-2008 annual report of the Budiriro Trust.

Jenny Biggar died on 8th May 8th 2008 after a valiant fight against Lymphoma. She was a very wonderful and exception person. St. Mary’s Church, Shinfield, was packed for the inspiring Funeral Service, which included several choirs which Jenny used to sing in herself – a wonderful tribute to someone who had so many friends here and abroad and who was always cheerful and quietly helpful and who had this deep inner strength.

Until not long ago, Jenny was a Trustee of Budiriro as well as Secretary and Fund-Raiser. She spent a great deal of time and energy in seeking out sources of funding, both from individuals and corporate bodies and managed to raise thousands of pounds with her tireless energy and enthusiasm. She was also involved in other ways (not least her home-made cakes, etc. after each Annual Meeting!). She was working at Manor Farm Estate, and also did some counselling.

She grew up at Manor Farm, run by her father, on the Englefield Estate, near Reading, and was part of a big, loving family. Her father, Bill, and Hardwicke [Holderness] (see obituary, Budiriro Trust Annual Report 2006-2007), had become great friends during the Second World War in the same squadron in RAF Coastal Command, and years later we found him and his family again on one of our rare visits to Britain – which was lovely. Around 1970, Bill wrote and said Jenny had decided to emigrate to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and could we perhaps “keep an eye” on her and we said “fine”.

She was, I think, very happy, working as a Medical Secretary, making new friends, joining St. Andrew’s Churh [Salisbury], having her own flat, and also having the freedom of our house and garden. She also realised how some of the children around us needed education and to be able to read books. Jenny had a love of literacy and books and literature all her life.

After she rejoined her family some years later, she took a degree in English as a mature student at Reading University, and when we later went to live in Oxford, she had embarked on a DPhil at Oxford University, also in English. We introduced her to Ken and Deborah Kirkwood (who had been highly involved in Budiriro since the beginning and had already embroiled both of us), and she was happy to become involved too. She worked miracles.

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