A former teacher and historian who was a guiding light of Three Rivers Museum was the “personification” of Rickmansworth community spirit.

Barbara Owen died on December 23, 2019 aged 98 after spending her last few weeks at Watford General Hospital.

She worked for many years as a teacher in London, Rickmansworth and Watford but was also a long-serving member of Rickmansworth Historical Society and founder of Three Rivers Museum.

Born on March 12, 1921 in Rickmansworth, Mrs Owen lived with her parents and elder sister Marion in the town.

She was a star pupil during her school days and at the age of 10 managed to secured a scholarship to Watford Grammar School, where she became head girl.

After her schooling Mrs Owen decided that she wanted to pursue a career in teaching and began her training in Bournemouth in 1939 during the Second World War.

Her first teaching post was in London, where she met her future husband Jack Owen, a former Lieutenant from the Merchant Navy lieutenant. The pair married in St Mary’s Church, Rickmansworth, in 1947 and had four daughters.

But Mrs Owen faced difficult challenges during her married life while Mr Owen fell ill with tuberculosis, a bacterial infection, in the 1950s.

It meant Mrs Owen had to care for the entire family on her own, but still managed to ensure the family enjoyed healthy, nutritious meals. 

Mr Owen recovered but died in 1964 after suffering a fatal cardiac arrest.

This left Mrs Owen a widower with four daughters to bring up, but she was determined to become a teacher again.

She was interviewed for a position at Watford Grammar School for Girls, where she was once a pupil. A teaching post was created for her and she soon found herself back in the world of teaching

She taught in various schools, including Joan of Arc and St Clement Danes, while helping the community in the various voluntary roles she took on in Rickmansworth.

Mrs Owen was among those who helped open Three Rivers Museum in 1987 and became chairman of the museum trust in 1997. She was also secretary of the Ricky Society and loved her involvement with the costume department of the Museum of London.

She was made an MBE for services to the community in 2011 when she was 90 and had her award presented by Prince Charles. 

She gradually became frailer over the following years and spent her last few weeks cared for in Watford General Hospital, still mentally alert but with physical frailties.

Chairman of Three Rivers District Council Cllr Paula Hiscocks said: “Barbara was the personification of the wonderful community spirit we have in Rickmansworth.

“Always organised, cheerful and totally in control from teas at Bury Fete day to trophies on behalf of Ricky Society or establishing Three Rivers Museum!

“We all have so much to thank Barbara for. It was a privilege to have known and worked alongside her.”