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Former head of Glendalyn children’s care home in New Milton, Valerie Thwaites, dies aged 85

A FORMER New Milton woman described as “a surrogate mother to so many” due to her work at a children’s home has died aged 85.

Valerie Thwaites, who dedicated her life to helping others, ran Glendalyn children’s home in the town, alongside her first husband Mick, from 1967.

Together the couple were also involved with other organisations locally, including the Lions Club and the New Forest Marathon.

Born on 6th March 1938 in Hornchurch, Val was the youngest of three children.

Valerie with dog Kizzie
Valerie with dog Kizzie

While her brother and sister, Derek and Pip, were evacuated to Trowbridge during the war, Val remained with her parents at the school in Meriden, near Coventry, where her father was headmaster.

She went on to meet husband Michael Manley at their local tennis club and were married in 1958 in Henley on Arden. They had two children, Richard and Penny.

At the time Mick worked as a development design engineer, while Val was employed as a psychiatric nurse.

Val and Jim
Val and Jim

In 1967 Val persuaded Mick to move to the New Forest and work together as joint officers in charge of Glendalyn, where they lived and cared for young people with less fortunate backgrounds.

It was a busy and often challenging career, but also personally fulfilling for Val and Mick, filled with care and laughter.

Glendalyn was a social hub, with many visitors and friends, and memorable discos and firework parties held there.

Val and Mick
Val and Mick

Val and Mick spent many happy summers with their family and with the children from Glendalyn at their beach hut at Portland, as well as swimming, walking, snorkelling and camping.

Their charitable personalities later drew Mick and Val to the local Lions Club, where Mick became president.

In 1981, seeking new ideas for fundraising, Mick suggested a marathon in the local area.

With Val’s backing, he walked and marked the course, and the New Forest Marathon was born.

Val continued to work at Glendalyn for some time after Mick retired with ill health, before starting a new position as a project co-ordinator with the Christian organisation, the Shaftesbury Society.

She again found her vocation, working to enable people with disabilities to live and thrive independently.

She was justifiably proud of the homes she helped to create.

A dog lover, Val bred several litters of spaniel puppies and always had a dog near her side as a companion.

After Mick died in 1995, Val continued working, focusing on keeping busy at home and enjoying life.

Her leisure time was spent with Richard’s family and enjoying her grandsons, as well as flying to the Canary Islands and the Caribbean to visit Penny and her husband, who were cruising on their yacht.

Val had many friends and they were also always around to support her.

In 1998 Val met Jim, who helped to care for her garden at her home in Bashley.

Three years later they married and then decided to enjoy their retirement in Madeira.

This was a place with which Val had a special connection, having holidayed there several times with Mick and their friends.

Val had previously been treasurer at St Peter’s Church in Ashley, and in Madeira, she and Jim became immersed in the life of Holy Trinity Church in Funchal, with Val becoming a church warden.

In her spare time, Val loved to bake and make jams and chutneys. Her wares were very popular on the church stalls after services, along with her homemade greeting cards.

On trips back to the UK, it was not unusual for people to call out to her by name, often those she had helped at Glendalyn and the Shaftesbury Society houses.

Daughter Penny described Val as “the best of the best”, adding: “She impacted and enriched so many lives and I am so proud she was mine and Richard’s mother.

“I know in my heart she has a special place in heaven.”

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