Mrs Vera Vennard had two solid pillars in her long life – her family and her church. Everything radiated from her deep love for her large extended family and her commitment to Thomas Street Methodist Church.
Vera (91) was one of family of 10, their parents being William and Flossie Baxter of Mourneview Street, Portadown. The original siblings were Billy, Freda, Vera, Edward, Ronnie, John, Irma, Florrie, Gloria and Sam. Vera is the fifth to pass away. Edward and Florrie live in Canada, with Irma and Sam residing in Portadown and Gloria in Lurgan.
Her husband Eddie died six years ago, after 65 years together. They brought up a family of seven – Ted, Kenneth, Thomas, Avril, John, Faith and Janet. There are 16 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
She died suddenly at Hockley Lodge Nursing Home, Richhill, where she had been a resident for two years. The family wishes to place on record their appreciation for the wonderful care she received from the dedicated staff.
Vera was educated at Thomas Street Public Elementary School and started work at Tavanagh Weaving Factory where her dad was an employee. She harboured an ambition to train as a nurse, but in those days, it required parental permission, she was in her teens and it proved impracticable. She satisfied that ambition by joining the St John Ambulance Brigade and served during and beyond the war years.
She met Eddie Vennard in April 1945. It was quite a whirlwind romance as they married in December that year in Thomas Street Methodist Church. When the children came along, her role was as a full-time mother. Eddie was a well-known postal worker and footballer, having had a spell at Shamrock Park and playing for various teams at junior level, later in his career.
They originally lived at Woodside Green, later moved to Huntingdale Lodge at Tandragee Road. Vera spent two years at Sunnymead in Armagh and her final two years in Hockley Lodge, Richhill.
It was tough work bringing up a family of seven. Rev Ken Robinson, who delivered the tribute at the funeral service, recalled that when Eddie brought home his pay packet, Vera received the lion’s share for running the house, Eddie kept a small amount for himself and the children all received pocket money.
“The first thing Vera did was to set aside money for the church offering the following Sunday,” said the minister, adding that she kept charity boxes for organisations like Dr Barnardo’s, Cancer Research, Christian and the Methodist Missionary Society.
In her youth, she had been a member of Thomas Street (1st Northern Ireland) Girls Brigade, and later joined the Old Girls’ Association. The group met every month and she was chairwoman in 1971-72.
In 1951, along with Martha Freeburn, Annie Bustard, Marjorie Lutton, Isa Gates, Gretta Best, Nessie McAfee and Mossie Day, they formed the Women’s Fellowship – later the MWI – and Vera was the last founding member to pass away.
She ensured that her family followed in her Methodist footsteps. They were members of the various organisations, and attended Sunday worship faithfully, shoes shone and shining, and all turned out in their Sunday best. It was a case of morning Sunday School and worship, afternoon Sunday School and Bible class, evening worship and youth fellowship.
For many years, Vera and Eddie organised the flower ministry at Thomas Street. When the evening service was over, they would take the flowers that had been used to decorate the building, to the elderly, to those unable to attend church, and to neighbours. They visited patients in hospital in Moira and St Luke’s, seeking to encourage and to cheer.
Vera, knowing that the years were moving on, organised her own funeral at her beloved Thomas Street Methodist and chose the hymns – ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, ‘How Deep the Father’s Love’ and ‘To God Be the Glory’.
Rev Tommy Stevenson conducted the service, the eulogy was by Rev Ken Robinson, and the Bible reading by Elizabeth Forbes, a valued and attentive friend of the deceased.
Burial was at Kernan Cemetery, and donations in lieu of flowers are to the Thomas Street Methodist Building Fund, c/o Ian Milne and Son, Funeral Directors, 59 Seagoe Road, Portadown, BT63 5HS.