A TRAILBLAZER. A force to be reckoned with. A dedicated woman generous with her time.

Tributes have been paid to an Andover stalwart who helped change the lives of disabled people across the region through her fight for them to be treated equally.

Elizabeth Hall MBE dedicated her life to community service and was a founding member of Andover and District Mencap, a school governor, a social worker, a lifelong member of Andover Cricket Club and sat on several boards and committees to improve life chances of young people.

She died earlier this month, at the age of 95. A private service will be held on Thursday to mark her life.

Elizabeth, known as Liz, moved to her bungalow in Enham in the 1960s with her husband and three children and it didn’t take long for her to start shaking things up.

Andover Advertiser: Elizabeth Hall MBE Elizabeth Hall MBE

Her friend and long-time associate Reverend Jill Bentall remembers: “I have known Liz since 1975. We’ve met in many different contexts over the years through her varied work. She was a very determined lady who fought tooth and nail for people with learning difficulties. She was a force to be reckoned with.”

Born in Hove, Liz spent her childhood in Ascot. Tragedy struck her family when she was eight after her father was killed in an aircraft incident where the pilot, who had been drinking, crashed upon take-off.

As part of the compensation, Liz was sent to board at The Royal High School in Bath though her education clashed with the Second World War which saw students decamped to nearby Longleat.

Daughter Diana Pickford recalls stories from Liz, who would then have been in upper school, on fire duty looking out across Longleat at night to check for bombs.

After her schooling ended, she spent time in Liverpool undergoing various work placements before heading to study at Lancaster University.

Andover Advertiser: Liz Hall with staff at the Bonhomie Centre, in the 1990sLiz Hall with staff at the Bonhomie Centre, in the 1990s

By profession, Liz was a psychiatric social worker but also a campaigner, a campaigner for the rights of disabled people and someone passionate about sport and access to education.

She married her husband in 1955. The pair met as children and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2005.

Remembering her father, Diana said: “He was once described as her rock which kept the rest of her life stable. He had a great sense of humour.”

He passed away in 2013 at the age of 88.

Liz found the covid pandemic “difficult” and wanted it to hurry up and get over.

The pair had three children: Johnny, Diana and Robert. Johnny had Downs' Syndrome. He died in his early 20s from a hole in heart. 

“He was part of the reason why she started up Andover Mencap. When he was five, there was nowhere for him to go to school in Andover. They managed to get him into a school in Winchester. Then it turned out there were quite a lot of other children around who had learning difficulties,” Diana said.

Ann Wood, chair of Andover and District Mencap, who first met Liz in 1987, said: “She was a parent at a time in the 1960s when people who had children with learning difficulties were expected to put their children in a hospital unit for life. The advice at the time was, ‘Don’t worry about this one, just have another kid.’

“I don’t think society knew how to deal with disabled children then. But Liz thought, ‘Hang about, this is my kid. I don’t want to stick my kid away in a residential hospital somewhere. They are a person and they deserve to be looked after and a part of the community.’ Liz was the leading charge on that.”

Andover Advertiser: Liz Hall MBE pictured with friend and Andover Mencap colleague, Ann WoodsLiz Hall MBE pictured with friend and Andover Mencap colleague, Ann Woods

Liz played a key part in changing how disabled children were treated and campaigned for an end to residential hospitals were children with learning difficulties were held. She set up the first incarnation of Andover and District Mencap in 1964, serving as chair until 1976 before becoming lifetime vice president.

Ann said: “Everything she did in life, she did it with passion. She was one of those people who had a great drive and desire to make things better for others and to get things done.”

Among Liz’s numerous achievements, she set up the Gateway Club for parents and fought for supported living accommodation for disabled people.

Rev Bentall said: “The Andover area owes her a huge debt for the work she has done as do people more widely. She was one of the real leaders to get proper support for families with disabled children. She was a real trail blazer.”

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Outside of her campaigning, Rev Bentall describes Liz as “generous” with her time and home. She gave away a bluebell wood to the Woodland Trust in memory of her son Johnny.

She was a lifelong member of the Church of England and sang in the choir at Smannell.

Liz also had a passion for cricket and became one of the first female umpires in the country, able to umpire up to county level.

Diana recalls: “She wouldn't stand any nonsense. A cricketer named John, who played for Andover for 50 seasons, told me they felt they had to improve their language when she was umpiring.”

And it wasn’t just language that Liz would be mindful of. Being the sole female at male games had other downsides too.

“She would complain about the men’s loos. Quite often, there would only be one loo which would require walking through the men’s changing rooms,” Diana recalled.

She described her mother as a “whirlwind” who enjoyed a long, good life. “My children were very proud to see her on the back page of The Advertiser last week,” she added.

Summing up her friend of more than 50 years, Rev Bentall, who will lead a service in Liz’s memory next week, said: “She was an all-round good egg.”

She described her as driven and great company. She delighted friends at her 90th celebration when she shared an anecdote from her childhood when her pony was loaned to the Queen.

Ann said: “Outside of all the great and wonderful things Liz achieved, she was kind and supportive and someone who is going to be missed very much by everyone at Andover Mencap, from parents to carers to people with learning difficulties who she loved very much.”

She added: “So many people at Andover Mencap have been helped and supported by Liz Hall and the group of people who have worked alongside her over the years, either as volunteers, staff or board members. She was truly one of a kind, much loved and will always be in our thoughts and our hearts. She was very loved and is going to be greatly missed.”

Cllr Phil North, leader of Test Valley Borough Council, also paid tribute to Liz, saying: “She was such a force of nature and did so much good for the town. I served with her for a number of years as a governor. Her commitment to our younger generation, especially those with special needs, was second to none.”

A private funeral will take place on Thursday but due to coronavirus restrictions, it is by invitation only.