Cllr. Joan Meeks
Sudden loss of South Tyneside councillor
I was greatly saddened to learn today of the rather sudden and untimely loss of Labour councillor Joan Meeks. I had not been intending to return to this page until the New Year, but it would be remiss of me not to record my warm memories and personal tribute to a wonderful lovely lady, who I had been conversing with just a short time ago as she completed buying Christmas presents for her grandchildren.
I have known Joan for a number of years, she is one of a number of councillors who hail from the same riverside area of South Shields as myself, and she epitomised the image of a self effacing and selfless local representative who cared deeply about South Shields and its people. She was not a complainer or moaner, she preferred to find the good workable solutions that suited the majority of her constituents, she was an optimist, a genuinely cheerful and happy woman until earlier this year when the devastating loss of her daughter seemed to rock and crumble her inner foundations. I felt heart broken for her then and watched with deep concern as her health faltered over recent months.
To me Joan was always warm and friendly, she was one of those councillors who could cross the political divide with an easy charm, in fact it was more than that, perhaps because of our shared roots, she was almost motherly or sisterly, the type of lady who you would want as your neighbour. I can imagine that she probably gave away a mountain of coffee and sugar over the course of her life time, which was ultimately much shorter than deserved.
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve sat and chatted on the beach in summertime as we shared opportunities to entertain the children, or the number of ice creams, sweets, and lollies, that she unselfishly lavished on my two, she was just that way, never wanting to see some do without, whilst others had! We may have 100000 inhabitants in South Shields, but it is smaller than you think, we shopped the same shops, and walked the same streets, she shared my eclectic sense of humour, I ribbed her terribly in these pages (especially over one particular hat) but she took it all in good sporting fun and gave some in return. She respected my views and opinions knowing they were different to hers, but she never attempted to intrude upon them, – but that was Joan, never one to be overtly confrontational, always wanting everyone to be happy.
Joan was intricately involved in many projects touched by the old Rekendyke Partnership, and we mused together over the somewhat “artistic” architectural representations of the new redevelopments planned for the riverside when they were shown at The Customs House,
“I hope they don’t end up with a load of square concrete boxes” said Joan,
luckily it was just the most basic conceptual thoughts about areas to be given to housing and industry, and open public space.
I cannot think of anyone who had a bad word to say about her (other than he who shall not be named) she just had the sort of Geordie hospitable personality that was easy to attach to, and as such it was always a pleasure to give something in return, perhaps a portrait for an old friend, or just a kind word and a smile. That was something you could always guarantee with Joan Meeks, an infectious smile! She will be missed, sorely missed, not only by myself but also by many retailers, shopkeepers, and small businesses in Frederick Street, where she always put in an appearance during their small carnivals and festivals.
My prayers and thoughts are now with her widower Arthur, and her extended family, not least her precious grandchildren.
Their hearts will be heavy, and Joan would not have wished for that, I pray that her cheerfulness will return and show itself in the happy memories of her family.