Thanksgiving celebration to be held to remember Sidmouth’s Jeanne Selley

Bette Thomasson (left) and Janet Welsford (right) remember their friend Jeanne Selley (middle).

Bette Thomasson (left) and Janet Welsford (right) remember their friend Jeanne Selley (middle). - Credit: Archant

A celebration of the life of a Sidmouth woman - described as a true friend who would do anything for anyone - will be held later this month.

Lifelong friends of Jeanne Selley have paid tribute to her selflessness and love of people, despite her being diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

Jeanne, 79, died on July 28 in Holmesley care home.

She was born in Libra Court, in what is now the Bennett and Rogers opticians building, in February 1938. Her arrival was unexpected by her siblings and father, as her mother had not told them she was expecting.

Jeanne began her education in Sidmouth before attending boarding school in Chumleigh. She then enrolled at secretarial college in Exeter.

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A devout Christian, Jeanne helped run a youth organisation at Sidmouth’s All Saint’s Church, led ladies’ meetings at the Emmanuel Baptist Church for 14 years and spoke at churches around the county.

After working at Lloyds Bank in Sidmouth, she became a secretary at the Hotel Elizabeth, where she met lifelong friends Janet Welsford and Bette Thomasson.

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The trio would become known as ‘the girls’ as they decided to work for themselves and bought the old bakery on Bridge Road, Sidbury, where they have lived for 44 years.

Bette said of Jeanne: “She would do anything for anybody. She loved Sidmouth and she loved people. All the time she was working for the Lord - that was her whole life. She loved her Lord.”

Janet added: “We miss her and her presence, her radiance and the sincerity in which she loved and expressed life.

“She had a wonderful sense of humour. We have always been a trio. We spent so much time together and doing things together.”

They ran the tea room until 1995, where they garnered a reputation for their generous portions of clotted cream.

Jeanne took on part-time work at Shiptons jewellers and Tudor Amethyst, where she met friend and future boss Anne Barratt.

In 2001, she began representing the Leprosy Mission and last year alone raised £14,000 for the charity.

Earlier this year, friends joined forces to release a collection of Jeanne’s poetry and illustrations in aid of the charity and Sidmouth Hospiscare, as she was confined to bed due to her health.

To date, the booklet has raised more than £1,300.

Anne, who runs Fitzalan Gems, is now looking to complete a booklet of Jeanne’s memories of growing up in the town to donate to the two charities. Anne said: “It will leave an enormous hole in my life. Not only have I lost a friend, it’s someone I have come to see as a mother and as an amazing work colleague.”

A thanksgiving service will be held at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Manstone Lane, on Tuesday, August 22, at 3pm.

Those attending are asked to wear cheerful attire.

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