Tributes to 'fiercely intelligent' and spirited Mothers' Union president

Tributes have been paid to Val Ovenden, who lived in Wroxham. 

Tributes have been paid to Val Ovenden, who lived in Wroxham. - Credit: Supplied by the family

She was known for her passion for life and fearsome intellect, and now tributes have been paid to Val Ovenden, née Alsop, who has died, aged 83.

Val, who lived in Wroxham, worked up until the day she died as the Diocesan President of the Norfolk branch of the Mother's Union, and as editor of the Hoveton and Wroxham parish magazine, The Bridge.

Val Ovenden in early 2019 with the Rev Andrew

Val Ovenden in early 2019 with the Rev Andrew Whitehead and Bishop Johnathan, former Bishop of Lynn. Mrs Ovenden was chairman of the Diocese of Norwich Mothers' Union. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Her daughter Fiona Schubert described her mother as “a truly amazing lady” who would be missed by many people.

Fiona said: “She was a modest person, who never sung her own praises. Sometimes people misread her physical frailty, only to later discover that it hid a fearsome intellect.

"She was never judgemental, but always available to offer wise words when needed. She touched many people's lives.”

Growing up in Bedford, it was quickly noticed Val was academically gifted and was able to read at the age of three. She was Bedfordshire’s highest ranked girl in the eleven-plus, and Fiona said she was “very upset” to be beaten by a boy.  

She was head girl at Bedford High School and went onto study maths at Cambridge University on a scholarship.

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Val went on to work for International Computers Limited (ICL) in London as a computer programmer, and moved to Stevenage when the company relocated to Hertfordshire.

She went on to become the most senior woman working for British Aerospace, as a principle systems analyst.

She met her first husband, Godfrey, in Stevenage, and they bonded over a shared love of music and especially jazz, as Val was an accomplished pianist. They had two children, Andrew and Fiona. 

Fiona said: “As youngsters, weekends were spent piling as many friends as possible into an old Ford Poplar and later a Ford Prefect, and heading out to parks and woodlands in the surrounding villages and countryside, where we could all run amok. She was always keen to educate and there were also numerous trips to museums, galleries, concerts and the theatre."

She performed and sang in local theatre productions and played piano for choirs and developed a love of Abba - choral concerts often ended with Thank you for the Music.

Val became a valued member of the local church, St Mary’s at Shephall, singing, playing the organ and acting as church warden. 

Fiona said: “Her contribution to the organisation of the church fete is legendary to this day and apparently, no-one has ever bettered the plant stall or tombola, when it was under her directorship.”

She remarried, to Reg, and gained two step-children, Elaine and Kevin.

Val had a love of Norfolk and especially Cromer, from childhood holidays with her parents and sister Wendy. 

Val and Reg bought a holiday cottage in Coltishall and retired to Wroxham, where they enjoyed gardening and boating on the Broads. 

Their retirement proved to be a very happy time of their life.

Fiona said: “She threw herself into her new life and got to know many people through St. Mary’s, Wroxham, while Reg continued his love of playing bridge and fishing." 

Val and Reg started publishing The Bridge - a task she loved and continued after Reg died in 2018 and she shared her love of music through the local U3A music group.

Through the pandemic she continued her role as the Norwich Mothers' Union president.

Fiona said: “During Covid, she continued to hold large meetings over Zoom and totally kept on top of her job.

"Val would often declare that she couldn’t understand how anyone could be bored or lonely. She was content with her life and anything it threw at her, whether that be lockdowns or the odd bout of poor health.” 

Her funeral is due to take place at St Mary's in Wroxham on October 5. Her family has asked for no flowers, but donations can be made by cheque in her memory to the Mothers Union Norwich Diocese, and sent c/o Gordon Barber Funeral Home, Horning Road West, Hoveton, Norwich, NR12 8QJ.