Obituary: Linda Jones, teacher and voluntary worker

Linda Jones: Former teacher whose energetic campaigning and voluntary work following a serious car crash improved many peoples' lives
Linda Jones: Former teacher whose energetic campaigning and voluntary work following a serious car crash improved many peoples' lives
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Born: 3 March, 1947, in London. Died: 15 September, 2013 in Edinburgh, aged 66

Linda Jones was an almost indefatigable force who defied obstacles and refused to be stopped in her tracks.

A respected teacher, she reinvented her way of life after suffering a severe spinal injury in a serious car crash. Still in her 30s and the mother of four daughters under the age of eight, she was rendered paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.

But with her “glass half-full attitude” she embraced her new, re-shaped future with customary determination and good humour, immersing herself in helping others through volunteering and broadening her own horizons on challenging sailing trips on tall ships.

She was described by friends as inspirational and the epitome of grace and goodwill, and her charity work interests ranged from the Children’s Panel to the Disability Appeals Tribunal, the Scottish Arts Council and the Samaritans which she chaired in Edinburgh.

Born in what is now the London Borough of Barnet, to RAF pilot Ron Dench and his wife Phyllis, a nursing sister, she and her brother Graham experienced the typically itinerant life of a forces family, living in Bulawayo, Rhodesia and Ahlhorn, Germany, as well as Shropshire, Cambridge, Yorkshire and Gloucestershire.

As a result of her father’s various postings she attended a total of 14 schools, including Perse School For Girls in Cambridge, Prince Rupert School in Wilhelmshaven, Germany and Ripon Grammar School. The bonus of such a nomadic lifestyle was a ready ability to make new friends and she remained close to many of them down the years.

Academically bright, she enjoyed student life in 1960s London where she qualified as a teacher. During her teaching career she taught at forces schools in Germany, where she met her future husband Michael Jones, then a Phantom pilot, whom she married in 1972.

When he changed careers they moved to Dundee where she taught while her husband studied law. Their first daughter was born in Dundee and they went on to have three more daughters and settle in Edinburgh, where she taught at St George’s School For Girls for a number of years.

The family was travelling home from holiday in Cyprus in 1983 when they were involved in a serious car accident near Carlisle. Mrs Jones was badly hurt and it was feared that she may not survive. She bravely endured months of hospital treatment, but her spinal injury meant she would remain a wheelchair user for the rest of her life.

Her disability made even the most mundane task or journey enormously challenging but she was uncomplaining and undeterred. She swiftly returned to looking after her family, to leading a full and active life and to helping others.

She joined a range of voluntary agencies, including the Children’s Panel of which she became a member in 1985. She served it for 15 years, becoming deputy regional chair of the Edinburgh panel and always displaying warm support for children and families experiencing difficult times.

“Linda contributed so much to Scotland’s unique children’s hearings system,” said one colleague. “She was very much ‘Got a wheelchair, a green Renault and I am good to go.’”

She later became a member of the Children’s Panel Advisory Committee where her non-judgmental approach and humour were greatly appreciated. As a long-standing member of the Disability Appeal and Additional Support Needs tribunals she was admired for her emotional intelligence, humanity and independent thinking. In 1997 she trained as a Samaritan and contributed huge amounts of her own time to the Edinburgh branch where, due to the existence of another Linda, she was known as Lindsay.

When, in 2011, she was unanimously elected to chair the branch she was unsure she would be able to fulfil her responsibilities – a fear that proved unfounded as she succeeded with serenity.

Her own experiences in a wheelchair, coupled with her enthusiasm for the arts, were the catalyst for her commitment to making the arts and arts venues accessible to those with disabilities.

She was a board member of the arts and disability organisation Artlink, which she chaired in the mid to late 1990s, was involved in the Adapt Trust, which campaigns for greater accessibility to arts venues, and more recently was a consultant for the Scottish Arts Council, travelling throughout Scotland to test the accessibility of arts premises.

In her own leisure time she enjoyed dance, theatre, music and sailing.

She attended the Edinburgh Festival each year and sailed with the Jubilee Sailing Trust, as part of a 40-strong crew on its two vessels fully accessible to people with physical disabilities. Her adventures at sea included trips to the Caribbean and Canary Islands as well as around the Scottish coast.

After being diagnosed with melanoma in 2011 she continued to work and volunteer. She took up embroidery and stitched beautiful samplers for family and friends with whom she continued to have fun and spend as much time with as possible.

At a celebration of her life she was remembered as an extraordinary individual, who set an example to all about bravery, joy and devotion to others, and a woman who made a deep impression on everyone she met.

Divorced from her husband, she is survived by her daughters Sophie, Katie, Jenny and Felicity, four grandchildren, her father Ron and brother Graham.