‘She touched the lives of so many people’ – popular former teacher and Gazette columnist dies aged 74

Joan Hands in the cockpit of a plane with husband Roger and her grandson, a qualified pilot
Joan Hands in the cockpit of a plane with husband Roger and her grandson, a qualified pilot
  • Born April 9, 1940, Joan died surrounded by her family last Tuesday, just shy of her 75th birthday
  • Living in Boxmoor since 1964, Joan taught at several public and private schools in Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and St Albans
  • Joan was a Gazette Heritage columnist, a founding member of Dacorum Heritage Trust, a member of UNICEF and ran her own Harlequin Theatre Group
  • Family said they would ‘love many old friends and acquaintances to be there’ when she is cremated in Amersham at 9.30am on Thursday March 26

The family of Joan Iris Hands has paid tribute to the former teacher, Gazette columnist, loving wife and devoted mum and grandmother after she sadly passed away last week.

Born April 9, 1940, Joan died surrounded by her family last Tuesday, just shy of her 75th birthday.

She fought hard against cancer and now St Patrick’s Day will have a new meaning for her family and loved ones.

A spokesman for the family said: “We know she touched many people as she was a very active contributor to the local and county community.”

Living in Boxmoor since 1964, Joan taught at several public and private schools in Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and St Albans.

Over a 40 year career she educated more than 1,000 children (5-9 year olds) and cared deeply for each student in a profession she loved.

She was committed to helping children with learning needs and studied hard to be a forerunner in teaching dyslexic children in the area. When she got her degree in dyslexia she saw the funny side of her family, saying: “Well done, mum, now you have letters in front of your name!”

Outside of her work Joan was a quiet but key figure; from being one of the founding members of the Dacorum Heritage Trust and a member of UNICEF to running her Harlequin Theatre Group for shows at schools with her friends (often enlisting her sons as reluctant actors). Joan was also a regular contributor to the Gazette sharing historical aspects of the town to our readers in our popular Heritage column.

In the early 1970s, she successfully fought, with a group of friends, to make sure the route of the A41 bypass did not follow a path that would ruin the moors in Boxmoor; a favourite place where her sons loved to play football and cricket with friends.

Together with her husband Roger, she wrote many books on the history of the local area. Joan sought to show there is so much more to Hemel and Dacorum than a New Town and a funny roundabout, and indeed there is.

Joan died aged 74, just shy of her 75th birthday

Joan died aged 74, just shy of her 75th birthday

She was an extremely creative person, re-writing well-known shows for the theatre group or school plays, often in a humourous or more appealing manner for the young. She had a passion for reading and loved to write poems, from clues for finding Easter eggs to very thought-provoking ones. Joan was an avid photographer and her family and friends will treasure many of those photos now.

A family spokesman said: “The only regret we have, outside of being 74 and too young to leave us, is the one book she never wrote, despite many requests from us: “Peter and his Magic Cat”. The stories would adapt to the changing environment but they were so entertaining throughout our childhood and those of her grandchildren.

“It may also resonate with many of the school children she would also tell the many stories.

“Many of our friends would also remember Mum as the Fortune Teller at the Boxmoor School fete held every year on the moor opposite the then-school building.

Mum will be sorely missed, but we are better for her being and will continue to love her legacy both in family and local community terms.

Family spokesman

“We never really knew if she could really do it but it entertained many people and it was for a good cause.

“Mum was always a stickler for details but accuracy in spelling and punctuation annoyed her most. The road sign in Sebright Road being a prime example is still there, shortened as the council put it in originally as Seabright Road.”

Joan loved to travel from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, to Germany, South Africa and Tunisia. But it was her times visiting her grandchildren in New Jersey, USA and Roosendaal, The Netherlands that brought special joy.

After downsizing from Sebright Road, Joan was looking forward to gazing over her new view of Gadebridge Park, unfortunately only to be enjoyed for too brief a time.

A family spokesman added: “Mum will be sorely missed, but we are better for her being and will continue to love her legacy both in family and local community terms.”

Joan will be cremated in the Amersham Crematorium at 9.30am tomorrow (March 26). The family said they would ‘love many old friends and acquaintances to be there’.

Joan always brightened up a room

Joan always brightened up a room

The family has asked not for flowers, but donations to the St Francis Hospice in Berkhamsted, which along with the Kilfillin House nursing home, looked after Joan so well in her final few weeks.

Joan would no doubt appreciate, given her love of all things heritage, that her passing coincides with the anniversary of works beginning on the building of the the village hall in Nash Mills, Hemel Hempstead in 1950 (see tweet).

Joan with an owl

Joan with an owl

Joan peforming (second from left)

Joan peforming (second from left)