Monica Langston: parish champion who ran village post office

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Monica Langston with her husband Jack

PARISH champion Monica Langston, who ran Lyndhurst’s post office for many years, served as church warden and was a longstanding volunteer at the community centre, has died at the age of 87.

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Along with her husband Jack, Monica came to the village in 1983 when they bought the village post office, and from then on she gave her time enthusiastically to the community.

Born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in 1931, Monica had one sister. She attended school in the town and recalled that, as a child, she was very shy – a far cry from her persona in later life.

She was introduced to Jack by mutual friends, and much of their courtship took place in dance halls where their waltz, foxtrot and quick-step skills were second to none.

The couple were married in 1951, and made their first home at Jack’s farm in the Chiltern Hills where they lived for 18 years.

During this time they had four children: Jennifer, David, Jonathan and Lucy. Monica, together with Jack, played an active part in village life, raising funds to build a village hall and organising the annual fete.

In 1970, the family moved to Hampshire. Buying Calmore post office, the couple threw themselves into the business as they experienced decimalisation and the inauguration of VAT, as well as the launch of self-service and Sunday opening.

Although running the shop and raising four children kept the couple extremely busy, Monica still found time to pursue her artistic side. Enrolling at night school, she learned pewter and copper etching and flower arranging. This desire to expand her creative skills continued for the rest of her life.

After a period of time owning Ferndown and Warsash post offices, Monica and Jack were keen to return to the New Forest – an area they had always loved.  They moved to Lyndhurst in 1983 and immediately threw themselves into village life.

Monica quickly made her mark on Lyndhurst by welcoming previously banned push chairs and dogs into the shop and calling a halt to the sale of ‘top-shelf’ magazines.

While Jack ran the post office, Monica oversaw a transformation of the retail side – tourist “tat” was replaced with up-market gifts and greetings cards. The shop became extremely popular with locals and visitors alike.

Soon after buying the post office, Monica and Jack moved into the next-door cottage.

Even after a day at work, Monica was always ready to join in with various community activities. She soon became church warden at St Michael and All Angels, and later took on the role of treasurer of the church committee.

She also got involved in the village community centre and was determined to help secure funding for the redevelopment of the facility. She held the post of treasurer of the Lyndhurst and District Community Association executive committee, and remained a trustee until shortly before her death.

Even into her 80s, Monica was instrumental in establishing the monthly community centre lunch club for older people. Despite a modest charge, surpluses were generated to fund a Christmas lunch and outings for cream teas.

In 2016, Monica’s contributions were recognised when she was awarded the Parish Champion trophy. The judges cited the outstanding and unstinting voluntary service she gave over many years, working quietly in the background and never seeking recognition or praise.

The Women’s Institute was also an important part of Monica’s life, and she took on the role of treasurer and then president of the Lyndhurst branch. Membership gave her the opportunity to develop her creative side through drama, silk ribbon embroidery and flower arranging.

Singing also brought Monica great pleasure, and she belonged to the church choir, the community choir and the Woodside Singers. She participated enthusiastically in each choir’s public performances and delighted in equal measure in the classical as well as lighter, humorous productions.

Her husband Jack said: “We had a wonderful, loving partnership of over 70 years. You take for granted the make-up of your daily life, but I’m so very proud to reflect on the extent of Monica’s full and selfless contributions.”

Monica’s family were central to her life. In addition to Jack and her four children, she is survived by six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Monica died peacefully on 13th April. Anyone wishing to donate in her memory can give to the British Heart Foundation c/o Henry Powell funeral services, Totton.

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