W.E.C.

Roland Benjamin

Volunteer, Wycombe Environment Centre

Frances was a great people person. She enjoyed helping people, but most of all she loved encouraging people to find confidence in themselves. Through my time at the third Environment Centre, I felt Frances’ inspiring force myself and saw its effect on those around her. This combined with her organisational skills meant no problem was too big for Frances and her teams to tackle. Most of all I admired her optimism, and the boundless energy she put into affecting positive change. It was a pleasure to have known Dr Alexander, and a gift I will carry for the rest of  my life.

Sarah Shafique

Volunteer, Wycombe Environment Centre

Frances and I first met at the Environment Centre when I asked if I could volunteer for a year as part of my university placement, and I’ll never forget her enthusiastic reaction – no one else had ever asked to volunteer for a whole year before! During that time, she taught me about the importance of my part in the world, not only with regards to caring for the environment, but also in terms of caring for myself and reaching my full potential.  

One of the ways in which she helped me was to raise my confidence and self-esteem – she would always listen my thoughts and ideas and encourage me to act on them. As an example, I wanted to host an ‘Ethical Living in Islam’ event at the Environment Centre, but I held myself back due to my lack of confidence. Frances never doubted me, she simply let me run ahead with my ideas and offered her support the whole way through.  

Frances is unlike any person I have ever known, and I will forever be grateful for her guidance, inspiration and friendship.  I will miss her very much.  Rest in peace, Frances. 

Mitchell Foyle-York

Volunteer, Wycombe Environment Centre

When I was a teenager, I suffered a mental breakdown, which left me in the tough position of having to rebuild my life. When I was well enough, I went to volunteer at the Wycombe Environment Centre — and it was here I first met Frances.

After just a few months of volunteering, there was talk of the Environment Centre having a space in a block of flats that were being built in Micklefield, High Wycombe, as a sort of community outreach project. Frances had the faith and trust to decide that, if the new centre were to go ahead, she would have liked me to have been the full-time employee there, paid by the housing charity (or the council, I can’t remember which one it was).

Though the centre never went ahead at the flats, and I ended up leaving for university and parting ways from the Environment Centre, I will always remember Frances as the first person to show any real faith in me after what was the darkest time in my life. I will be eternally grateful for how she treated me, and though we only knew each other for a few months, the faith she showed in me turned out to be unquestionably life changing.

Henri Court

Volunteer

Wycombe Environment Centre

Frances’ interest in the Environment was part of her whole philosophy.  We all inhabit the same world.  Look after it, co-operate, and respect each other. This was behind the two charities that she set up and her interest in all cultures.

The Wycombe Environment Centre allowed me to return to my teenage intention to work on behalf of protecting our environment.  That I was able to do by setting up a gardening group at the second Wycombe Environment Centre (it started with recycled containers); running holiday gardening sessions for children in school holidays, with Dusty; setting up a group allotment and co-running the Wycombe Environment Centre Facebook page with Frances. Her last post to that was in September 2020.

So why trees (apart from the fact that Frances loved them)?

When you plant a tree, you are looking forward.  There is no guarantee that you will reap the benefits of a mature tree or its harvest. You are taking an action that might not benefit you, but you are leaving it behind for the benefit of others.  If it is a fruit tree, then it might be someone else that eats the fruit, not you.

This is what Frances did.  She planted “trees” of all kinds.  Some ideas didn’t thrive, but many did and all of us will be able to benefit from the legacy that Frances has left us from all those “trees”. Her vision was to educate everyone that what we do now will impact mankind in the future.

When you are a teacher, you are still growing “trees”. The fruits of your labours, your impact, go on long after you have taught that person.  If you are lucky, you will see some pupils again and know the difference that you made. Frances never wanted to stop teaching. She wanted to spread her environmental message and educate children about that and the history of High Wycombe. I will always have fond memories of loud squeals when we inspected the wormery in the garden, the little girl who brought her pet wood louse to the gardening session and the entire cub pack who came to do badge work and composting. Frances had been the cub leader’s teacher. 

My son volunteered at WEC1 one summer when his planned work experience had fallen through.   Afterwards, Frances wrote to his headmaster providing a testimonial and my son was awarded a commendation.  I suspect that Frances often encouraged youngsters in this way. She had a lot of time for young people.  A former volunteer co-ordinator from Bucks New University Students’ Union sent the EC this message: “I used to bring groups of student volunteers to the Environment Centre. They were always my favourite trips and I loved chatting with Frances whenever we were there, and I know that the students did too. She was always a fascinating person to talk to”.  

I hope we will all go on planting those “trees” and continue in the work that Frances started so energetically.

Gary Tulie

Trustee,

Wycombe Environment Centre

Frances always amazed me by her energy and commitment. When most people had long retired and were quietly spending time at home, Francs was the driving force behind the Environment Centre – active in promoting both good environmental practice, and social justice right to her last week. 


Like many, I have reason to be thankful to Frances for her kindness and friendship during some difficult times. She was always willing to have a conversation, and to offer support – even when she was going through grief and illness of her own. 

To all her family and friends, I would ask that her positive and fulfilling life be remembered even in the sadness brought on by her loss. 

Elsa Woodward

Former trustee

Wycombe Environment Centre

Frances took a great interest in many aspects of the environment for many years, as  was  confirmed by  her far-sighted establishment  of the Environment Centre in the late 1990’s, and she was always a  great pleasure to work with.

During the 1990s  the High Wycombe Society’s transport group was very concerned for the High Street.   There were  two lines of traffic all the time, including on market days.  

We campaigned for some years without success until Frances persuaded  the Council to   establish the present successful system – another example of her vital contributions to the town.

Dr Caroline Eliot

Scientist & Artist

Former Trustee

Wycombe Environment Centre

I had the privilege of serving as one of Frances’ trustees at the Wycombe Environment Centre. Frances was an inspirational Chairman. This was her term; when asked why she preferred being referred to as a “Chairman” rather than “Chair”, she used to reply that she was not a piece of furniture!

From the moment I first met Frances, she struck me as a tirelessly determined utopian with high moral standards. But what set Frances apart was the ability with which she could take her idealism and translate it into meaningful, compelling action plans (e.g. “Think Global, Act Local”). She was able to use her exceptional emotional intelligence and uncanny knack of sensing people’s motivations and skills to create synergies and momentum.  In short, it was by bringing together and empowering each and everyone of us that she was “getting things done”.

Dear Frances, with your incredible strength and benevolence, you exemplify modern leadership. It is an honour to have been one of your trustees and mentees.