Lystra Mary Berrett

A FAMILIAR figure to many Steeple Ashton residents died in the Westbury Care Home on February 18.

The funeral of 93-year-old Lystra Mary Berrett took place in St Mary’s Church, Steeple Ashton, on Wednesday, March 6.

She leaves a son John and a daughter Vicky, two grand-daughters and a great-grand-daughter. Her husband Sidney Berrett and her other daughter Frances pre-deceased her.

As she cycled the roads and lanes between Trowbridge and her home in Steeple Ashton, Mrs Berrett surprised even her friends when appearing on her bike one day dressed only in a swimsuit and red nose to raise money for Comic Relief.

The action was typical of a good-humoured woman who threw herself into both village life and good works.

Lystra Mary Berrett (nee Lamb) was born on February 13, 1926 in Kent. Her early years were spent amongst the animals on their farm in Sundridge, near Sevenoaks.

When she was four her mischievous sister Serena came along, followed by Cordelia. By the time she was seven they had moved to a large house in Tytherton Lucas, just north of Chippenham.

At home she was surrounded by a menagerie of animals, which included a white rat and goats. She maintained an affection for cats throughout her life.

Lystra was educated firstly in the local primary school and then from the age of 13 at the John Bentley Grammar School in Calne.

At the age of 18, in the penultimate year of the Second World War, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army.

She trained in the south-east of England until the Doodlebugs made things too uncomfortable. Her first placement was at a parts distribution depot in Derby where she gained a great knowledge of vehicle parts. Later, she saw service in Jerusalem and Egypt.

On being demobbed she enrolled for a three-year dairying diploma at the Seale Hayne Agricultural College near Newton Abbot in south Devon.

A series of herdswoman jobs, which was something of a rarity in those unenlightened days, saw her return to Wiltshire and eventually to Steeple Ashton when she married Sidney ‘Boxer’ Berrett in 1952.

Mrs Berrett became a leading light in the village, heavily involved in the local Women’s Institute and the church.

She had two stints working at Bowyers in Trowbridge, and also took on the role of caretaker to Steeple Ashton Village Hall.

After Sidney died in 1980, she went on her travels, sometimes as far afield as California and China.