‘Wonderful soul Jo will be deeply missed’

Jo Frith pointing the way to the monthly VGS farmers market

Jo Frith pointing the way to the monthly VGS farmers market - Credit: Archant

Friends, family and collaborators in all manner of local ventures have shared their memories of a ‘tour de force’ in the Sidmouth community.

Countless tributes have poured in for Jo Frith (pictured), who died last week.

On her retirement from a career in IT, mainly with IBM, Jo brought to the town, and Devon more widely, her keen analytical mind, together with wit, good humour and immense kindness.

She had served as a councillor in the London borough of Richmond - and that insight into government made her an invaluable conduit between the Vision Group for Sidmouth (VGS) and local decision-makers.

Her commitment to environmental sustainability led her to be the secretary of various organisations over the past decade, from East Devon Green Energy to the Independent East Devon Alliance (EDA). Many residents may have known her simply as the cheerful holder of a sign in the High Street, pointing the way to the monthly VGS farmers’ market.

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Her friend, Robert Crick, said: “Behind the scenes, Jo pointed the way to many other projects to preserve and enhance our town and the future survival of our species.”

Her experience in Iceland and elsewhere gave her a unique insight on erosion and coastal management on the Jurassic Coast, and she was a fund of knowledge on innovative renewable energy projects that could be profitably applied to the coastline.

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She worked indefatigably to encourage local government to take action on flood management and to reduce the risks of flooding from rivers, sea and rainfall.

Recently, she was representing the VGS on the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan (BMP). Its chairman, Councillor Andrew Moulding, paid tribute to her ‘exceptional contribution’, saying: “Jo’s attention to detail was second-to-none and she offered great insight into the BMP process.”

Robert added: “Her personal life exemplified her ethical commitment to life on earth. Her early decision not to have children was a gesture against over-population that also freed her for service to the wider community.”

In recent years, she made her home in Fortfield Terrace, where neighbouring flats were occupied by her 95-year-old father John, her sister Gita and her nephew Duncan. With her extended family, she strove to enhance the Fortfield Terrace community, not only artistically, but also by sharing resources and demonstrating models of energy efficiency.

Another friend, Jackie Green - who led Jo’s campaign when she stood for a district council by-election in 2005 - said the formerly neglected property is once again ‘a fine and prominent local asset’, thanks to their efforts. She added: “Above all, Jo made a difference.”

EDA chairman Paul Arnott paid tribute to Jo as ‘a wonderful soul who will be very deeply missed as a friend and as an outstanding, fair-minded, courteous and extremely witty activist’.

Jo died suddenly last Wednesday (February 24) at the age of 71 after cycling to Sidford in the sunshine. Following a post-mortem, there will be a quiet family interment at the graveside. In a few months’ time, there will be a public celebration of her life.

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