Retired Brown Owl 'amazing with children' dies aged 86

Jeanette Lawes, a Brown Owl for 35, has been remembered for her "warm, friendly smile"

Jeanette Lawes, a Brown Owl for 35, has been remembered for her "warm, friendly smile" - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A retired Brown Owl of 35 years has been described as "a brilliant leader and amazing with children” following her death aged 86. 

Jeanette Grace Lawes dedicated most of her life to helping young people, particularly with her involvement with guiding. 

Born on November 7, 1934, she grew up in Norwich where she spent much of the Second World War with various relations, cycling from Thunder Lane to attend Trinity church every Sunday. 

She was educated at the city’s Model School and achieved high grades, securing a scholarship for secretarial college.

Unfortunately, her parents could not afford for her to attend so she found employment as a shoe binder with the Bally Shoe factory off Hall Road. Here she met friend Jean, with whom she would enjoy many cups of tea. Mrs Lawes valued their friendship, as well as help from Jean’s husband Harry. 

In 1944, Mrs Lawes, then aged 11, met her life-long friend Sheila  Fiske at 7th Norwich Holy Trinity Guides in Essex Street. During their teens, they became joint Girl Guide Leaders of this troupe and gained their permit camp licence.

They loved camping and singing around the campfire, and one of the highlights of Guides was attending Foxlease camp in 1955. During their time with the Guides, they both obtained a rare first-class guiding award.  

Jeanette Lawes (left) back in 1948 aged 14, with Sheila Fiske

Firm friends from the start: Jeanette Lawes (left) back in 1948 aged 14, with Sheila Fiske - Credit: SUPPLIED

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Sheila introduced Mrs Lawes to her friend Barbara and they all became good friends. Later, the trio, along with their husbands, would meet several times a year for card and board games, as well as the annual birthday celebration for her husband Cliff Lawes every Valentine's evening. 

The pair, who first met at the Gala in the city after Mr Lawes asked her to dance, married on March 29, 1958, at the Holy Trinity Church. They spent their married life in Dereham where they enjoyed tending to their garden and made friends with many neighbours. 

A good cook, Mrs Lawes would make jam from their garden produce, “amazing” Christmas puddings, and cakes. She also loved sewing, cross-stitch, knitting, reading, crosswords, puzzles and cycling. 

During this time, Mrs Lawes would travel on the 6.45am train from Dereham to Norwich daily to work, which is when she met Nancy – or “Nan”, as she affectionately called her. It was Nan who suggested she could become a Brownie Guider, thus starting a long association and 35 years as Brown Owl, leading the 3rd Dereham Brownies. She was also division treasurer and county pack holiday advisor. 

Jeanette Lawes says goodbye to the 3rd Dereham Brownies back in 2000

Jeanette Lawes (centre) says goodbye to the 3rd Dereham Brownies back in 2000 - Credit: ARCHANT / Graham Corney

Her family said: “She loved being a Brown Owl and was happiest being with all the brownies, singing, playing games, teaching badges, and taking the brownies on numerous pack holidays. The brownies loved her too.” 

Snowy Owl Debbie added: "She was a brilliant leader and had amazing patience with the children.” 

After retiring as Brown Owl, she became a member of the Trefoil Guild where she enjoyed singing and serving refreshments at Pulls Ferry, Norwich. 

Mrs Lawes was a junior church leader for 21 years, a member of the congregation at St Nicholas’ in Dereham, and Messy Church helper. She worked at Toftwood playgroup, London Road bakery, Direct Dance, and at Morrisons supermarket until the age of 77. 

Following the passing of Mr Lawes, she had a knee replacement and attended the gym to help with physio. Here she met an old friend, Jo, and they rekindled their friendship from Guiding days. 

The family added: “Mum had a great sense of humour. 

“She was a kind, selfless, and caring person, generous with her smile and had the most amazing blue eyes.  

“A love of the theatre, she used to take us girls to local amateur productions at Dereham Memorial Hall. She was always happy when she had her family around her and enjoyed seeing her grandchildren growing up.” 

Mrs Lawes died on October 19 at Eckling Grange Care Home. She leaves behind daughters Kim and Debbie, and son-in-law of Chris. She was also a loving Nana to Hannah, Sarah, Grace and Jacob.