Joan Howard-Drake 1924-2022

In Joan Howard Drake the Wychwoods have lost a strong and seemingly indefatigable member of our local community.

Joan was born Joan Crook in Oxford. She spent her formative years in the city – through school, work and the Second World War when she volunteered as an air raid warden and with the St John’s Ambulance. She always regarded Oxford as her spiritual home. She met her future husband, Jack Howard Drake, in Oxford just after the war when Jack was posted to work in the same office.

After their marriage in 1947 they moved to London and then to North Kent where they remained until Jack retired in the 1980s. They then returned to Oxfordshire and lived in Shipton until Jack’s death in 2013. Joan finally lived in Milton until she had a serious stroke in December 2020.

Joan was, by choice, a ‘stay-at-home’ mother. Three children filled her days but she still made time to pursue her love of embroidery, tailoring and cordon bleu cookery. Joan was a very knowledgeable gardener blessed with the proverbial ‘green fingers’. She kept some plant stock going for decades and valued their connections with previous homes and gardens. She tended her greenhouse and garden well into her 90s. 

Jack was the love of her life. Married for 74 years, they shared a passion for books and poetry, not to mention golf, as well as a deepening interest in local history. They were founder members of the Wychwood Local History Society where Joan served on the committee for 35 years, taking particular interest in Shipton parish registers and in wills. In recent years, an almost indecipherable Tudor will could be sent to her by email and within a few hours be downloaded, transcribed, annotated, scanned and returned online.  Both Joan and Jack have several publications to their names and leave a considerable archive of material as their legacy.

She loved the local community and was an active member of village groups. She made costumes for the Shipton pantomimes, was a member of both Shipton and Milton WIs, baked wonderfully, and volunteered in Milton library up until the Covid lockdown. She went to Keep Fit, scrabble groups and coffee mornings. In fact, until Covid forced her indoors, she was living at a breath-taking pace.

Joan was a modest, creative, independently minded, no-nonsense, good neighbour and citizen. After 97 years, she had ‘seen it all before’ and very little fazed her. She will not be forgotten by all those in the Wychwoods and further afield who knew and appreciated her.

Based on a tribute to her mother by Allison Merry

February – March 2022