Obituary: ‘No job was too small for caring Luton MBE, Jackie’

Jackie (left); at Buckingham Palace (right).
Jackie (left); at Buckingham Palace (right).

Dedicated Luton Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) member Jacqueline Mary White MBE, has died aged 83.

It was in the late 1960s that Jackie first became involved in the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service with her friend Sheila, whenever there was time to spare between raising three children and her duties as a bookkeeper, secretary, and company director of her husband’s business Brown &White Opticians.

Jackie was in WRVS uniform for 26 years, acting as District Organiser of the Luton branch from 1977 and Deputy County Organiser from 1980. She managed 500 volunteers in Luton at the branch’s height, overseeing Meals on Wheels and a Home Visit scheme which carried out visits to 200 people in need each week.

She also took part in exercises preparing her for chemical warfare, plane crashes, and other disasters for which the WRVS might be required.

“Anything we were asked to do,” remembered Jackie, “we tried to do it.”

No job was too small so long as it would make a real difference to someone’s life, such as helping an elderly man to buy a new budgie when his old one had died.

Whenever the WRVS was needed to help in an emergency, Jackie would phone her friends in the middle of the night and ask: “Are you coming out to play?”

She relished her work in the WRVS, reflecting: “It was a great time. I had a lot of experiences that I wouldn’t have had and have been to places I wouldn’t have been.”

In 1993 Jackie was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her work with the WRVS. She was presented with her medal by Prince Charles at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Jackie married her husband Keith White in 1956 and the couple lived in Luton for 50 years. She was a dedicated wife who cared for Keith throughout his decades of disability until his death last Christmas Eve.

In their many years of marriage, they enjoyed holidays together in the Lake District and on cruises across the world’s oceans. They were committed to their ever-growing family, hosting annual summer Family Days and Christmas parties where they would spend time with their children and their six grandchildren Rebecca, James, Jessica, Emma, Stephanie, and Gregory. Only a month before she died, Jackie spent two happy weeks in Turkey with her daughter, granddaughter, and her beloved great-grandchildren Fraser and Sam.

Outside of her work and charitable efforts, Jackie was also a relentless gardener, a champion of recycling before recycling was a thing, a keen tennis player, and a long-serving member of Chiltern Ladies Hockey Club. Her weekly Wednesday night catch-ups with friends were an unmovable entry in her social calendar, prevented only by her relocation to Northampton in 2018.

Jackie died on August 26 following a short illness, and was surrounded by her loving family.