Eulogy for Betty Burdett

8 June 2010

Mum was born in July 1919, as Betty Nicholls, daughter of William and Mabel Nicholls, to a farming family by the side of the Exe.

She was the middle child of 3 (like me!) with an elder sister Jean and a younger sister Ann. Being the middle child might have a number of a advantages but one of them in her case was that she was spared the milk round (with pony and trap) and was able to take a job with Boots the chemist in Dawlish.

Here she excelled with her efficiency, warm smile and good looks, attracting regular customers and boosting trade! Indeed she was well sought after as during the war she moved to Boots in Wellington (Somerset) where Mr Payne was the proprietor. And in the 1960s she resumed work in the sector under the same Mr Payne at his pharmacy in Starcross.

She married George Rossiter, an optician from Teignmouth, at Cofton in the early 1940s. She maintained close relations with her sisters, including her younger sister by 9½ years – Ann, who regarded her as a lovely and helpful older sister. Ann used to enjoy visits to their flat in Teignmouth above old man Rossiter's business, where she was always thought to be welcome.

Mum had 3 lovely children! In the war a disaster was narrowly avoided when the nursing home she was in at Teignmouth with Gillian was bombed but very fortunately they survived!

She was very keen on bridge and we had to be ever so quiet when the evenings were at our house.

Golf though was probably her biggest passion. She was a member of Teignmouth Golf Club for a very long time, winning 5 trophies: Membership Trophy and Lucas Trophy in 1960, Ladies Captain's Prize in 1961, MacClaren Cup in 1971 and Handicap Cup in 1989. She was also Ladies' Captain in 1959 and President from 1993-1996.

Most achievers do have a degree of obsession and I think mum was no exception here. She used to return some evenings saying she was going to give up the game but next morning she was back on the course getting better results. She always persevered and showed her empathy for fellow golfers by donating a salver – the Betty Burdett Silver Salver – to be competed for yearly by high handicap players.

Some years following the tragic death in an accident of her husband George Rossiter she married the other optician in Teignmouth -- Peter Burdett. There were potentially many difficult situations here with the integration of the 2 families but I think it is fair to say that mum rose to the challenge, handling all eventualities smoothly and providing a good deal of harmony, rather than friction.

She was very business-like with both her partners, helping them as receptionist and providing back-up advice to customers on matters such as photography and spectacles.

Above all though from my point of view and I'm sure from my sisters' as well, she was always there for us. Now 3 children, 7 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren; on Peter's side 1 child, 1 grandchild. All regarded her very much as the head of the household, someone to confide in, someone to reassure us.

She was thankfully very fit until the last few months maintaining a determined self-reliant existence. She was so brave during her last illness. She will be very sadly missed.

Nicholas R.