Tributes to 'full of life' nan, who picked cheese on toast over Christmas dinner

Joan Garnham with her 100th birthday card from the Queen

Joan Garnham with her 100th birthday card from the Queen - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A centenarian who put the secret of her long life down to “taking no-nonsense” has died from pneumonia. 

Joan Garnham, who was described as a “strong-willed” individual by one of her five children, was a woman who knew her own mind – even if that meant turning down a Christmas Day dinner. 

Recalling their last together in 2020, daughter Hilary Boggia said she was grateful they had been able to spend the day together, despite Mrs Garnham insisting on eating cheese on toast. 

She said: “She told us she didn’t want any turkey and that she fancied cheese on toast, so that was what she had. 

“In fact, we never could keep up with her. She was full of life and always kept busy. 

“She would not put up with any nonsense.” 

Joan Garnham has been described as "determined" and "full of life"

Joan Garnham has been described as "determined" and "full of life" - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Born Joan Murton in Bressingham, near Diss, on April 26, 1921, she was the last remaining sibling of a family of builders. And although her official birthday was recorded on that day, she insisted she was born on April 28 and celebrated her birthday every year on that day. 

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As a child, she attended Bressingham Primary School. During the Second World War, she would look after evacuee children taken in by her parents. 

She married Sidney Garnham during the late-1930s and together the couple went on to have five children - four girls, and a boy who was the middle child.

Unfortunately Mr Garnham, a former Japanese prisoner of war (POW), went on to suffer from mental health issues as a result of his time as a POW. The couple would eventually separate when Mrs Garnham was aged in her 60s. Mr Garnham died aged 62 from a brain tumour. 

During her married life, Mrs Garnham became a full-time homemaker and would supplement the family’s income by working part-time on the fields, and later at Sainsbury’s supermarket. She would ride her bicycle to get to work.  

Joan Garnham as a young woman with three of her children

Joan Garnham (centre) as a young woman with three of her children - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

It is the strong-willed personality that will forever cement the memories of her, Mrs Boggia explained. 

“She would never run to the doctors,” she said. “She was very strong-minded and strong-willed. She was of that generation.  

“Despite suffering a lot with chest problems, she would make-up plenty of rhubarb and plum wine – which she called ‘the best medicine' - before going to see the doctor."

Mrs Boggia recounted a time when her mother suffered from pneumonia, pre-National Health Service. At the time, Mr Garnham had to sell his car to pay for her to be in the hospital. 

In later life, Mrs Garnham had her own flat at the residential home Weaver’s Court in Diss, and became its longest resident after living there for 24 years. 

On her 100th birthday, the New Buckenham Silver Band performed “Happy Birthday” and a number of other songs for her while her family watched socially distanced. It was the band's first performance that year. 

Mrs Boggia added: “Having a flat of her own was important to her. She did a lot of cooking and liked to make her own food. She did not like processed foods. 

“She had many friends there and they would often joke with her as she always won the games they played there together, such as bingo and play your cards right. She was very determined and a very good friend to everyone who knew her. 

“Although she had a strenuous life at times, she also had such a laugh too.” 

Joan Garnham on her 90th birthday

Joan Garnham on her 90th birthday - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Garnham, who was a “dearly loved” mother and nan, died on November 7 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. 

Her funeral took place at St Mary's Church, Diss, on December 7, with a burial at Diss Cemetery and a celebration of her life at Thatcher's Needle, also in Diss.

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