Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Valerie Lynn Carslake 1941 – 2015

From the Parish News – January 2016

Val Carslake died on October 28th 2015 aged 74 years.

The Parish of Denton showed its true family spirit when a large congregation filled St Mary's Church at Val's Memorial Service on Monday 16th November. The service was conducted by Rev. Chris Hutton, with moving Tributes from her sons, Tony and Tim, followed by a reflection on her life in the village by Gill Hipwell. All spoke of the love and warmth this lively, passionate and precise little lady showed throughout her life.

To many of the regular churchgoers from both Denton and Barsham Churches, some of the most poignant moments came as they realised that the beautifully chosen hymns were all accompanied in her own lively style with recordings by Val, who played the organ during recent years at both Churches. The service was followed by cremation at the newly opened crematorium at Ellough near Beccles, while many friends and family gathered for generous refreshments at Denton Village Hall where Val herself had spent many hours of enjoyment.

Val was born in Guildford Surrey, daughter of Kath and Jim Sawyer. At the age of ten the family moved to Witham with her sister Jenny, where her father had bought a butcher's shop. From there Val went to Chelmsford High School for Girls where she achieved nine “O” levels as well as showing a rare talent for music. However she turned down the offer of a scholarship to the Royal School of Music - instead she took a job at the London branch of the Bank of Montreal. This was not to last as the daily commuting on the steam train was not to her liking, so she decided to work for her Dad delivering meat around the Witham area. She was also helped by her sister Jenny at weekends when they covered the outlying villages.

In 1961 it was love at first sight when, in a queue with her lifelong friend Marge waiting to enter the Colchester “Club de Danse", she met an attractive young soldier from the Colchester barracks named Johnnie Carslake. During their courtship Val would regularly drive Johnnie in her father's meat van to catch the last bus back to Colchester from Witham. They were married in Brixton on 30th March 1964 on a freezing Easter Monday, and made their first home in Tiptreee, Essex. On February 13th 1965 their first son, Tony, was born followed two years later by Tim. As with almost all her activities she became a wonderful mother, except apparently when it came to baking cakes! In more recent years she became immensely proud of her four grand-children, Siobhan, Micky, Amelia and Maria.

Val had quite a variety of interests, apart from her music which took various forms, from playing in a band to accompanying on the church organ. She was also an avid supporter of Arsenal football club, enjoyed supporting Poole Speedway, loved gardening and, most of all, loved their pet dogs especially Cassie their Chocolate Labrador who adored her to the end.

In 1989, after several moves around the southern counties, Johnnie and Val moved to Denton when they both came to work at Clay's Bungay printing works. Within a very short time they became involved in village life, which started with Johnnie's involvement with the music for the annual pantomime. Val in later years took on the Box Office for the pantomime which had to be organised with the precise efficiency that was the hallmark of Val's whole life and was repeatedly mentioned in the tributes.

Apart from her general interest in church activities, in 2014 Johnnie and Val organised the “Festival of Angels'' in Denton’s St Mary's Church. In spite of undergoing intense treatment for cancer she was undaunted and actively supported Johnnie throughout the wonderful event. Seldom does one meet a person with such inner faith and courage to face such adversity with the spirit of determination, fostered by the love and devotion which made her an “angel'' in herself. Sadly her brave fight was cut short when she was overcome by an attack of pneumonia with a collapsed lung which, in spite of a six-hour battle in hospital, took her life.

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