Peterculter community councillor, gala stalwart and charity supporter Ann Wakefield has died aged 83.
The retired teacher, who was also part of the WRVS and volunteered as a Culter Emergency Responder, spent her life in the service of others and for the betterment of the village where she lived for more than 30 years.
Now, speaking from their home in the heart of the Culter, David Wakefield pays tribute to the woman he calls ‘very special indeed.’
Born on September 29, 1938 Geraldine Ann Clarke – who was always known just as Ann – was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire.
Her father was mechanical engineer and tool maker, Cyril Frederick Clarke and her mother, Nora, was a nurse.
She had one sister called Pat, and the girls attended English Martyrs RC Primary School.
Ann then completed her early education at Wakefield Girls High School.
Poring over cherished photos of his wife, David Wakefield said: “She was one of these rare people, Ann, who never lost touch with anyone.
“She had friends that she met in nursery school, that were part of her life ever since. It was quite something.”
Becoming a teacher
Her next step was attending the IM Marsh College of Physical Education – which later became the school of education, leisure and sport studies at Liverpool’s John Moores University.
There she studied PE and human biology, qualifying as a teacher. Her first post was in London, at Camden School for Girls.
However, from an early age Ann loved anything physical. From gymnastics and hockey, to swimming and later lacrosse, or rock climbing, sailing and hill walking, Ann had a wild spirit eager for adventure.
To that end, she spent time as a young adult in America and Plas Y Brenin, North Wales.
Within the beautiful Snowdonia National Park climbing became a significant part of her life. And both the friends she met there and a passion for outdoor activities remained with her.
Another recurring theme throughout her life was her love of adrenaline. She loved aeroplanes, flying, cars and motorcycles, earning herself a reputation for being a petrol head.
“It was the faster the better, as far as Ann was concerned,” added David.
But it was during her time teaching PE, biology and English at Churston Ferrers High School in Devon that Ann would find her other great love – David.
The school – situated between Dartmouth and Brixham facilitated a new love of sailing and provided the perfect setting to meet a Royal Naval College student with a surname the same as the place they were both born.
David, a junior officer at the naval college, first met Ann at a folk club that she ran in a local hotel.
“When I first set eyes on Ann my first impression was of a beautiful woman with a beautiful singing voice. She was playing the Spanish guitar so simply but beautifully.
“She was unattainable… but I persevered. We married a couple of years later.”
They tied the knot during David’s Christmas leave on December 22, 1967.
But living in a flat hundreds of miles from family, when their son was born a plan was hatched to relocate back north to be near family.
David left the navy securing work as an engineer, and Ann found work in Wakefield Cathedral Secondary School.
Surrounded by both sides of their family she pursued an additional qualification, earning a BA in Education from Manchester University.
In 1974, however, David began working offshore with Shell in the North Sea.
“The nature of his job meant being away from home, progressively all over the world.
“When our son began boarding school Ann would travel with me. We ended up in Holland, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.
“But in 1988 it meant a return to Aberdeen.”
Initially they lived in Ashvale Place, then Westhill before eventually buying a ‘do-er upper’ in Culter in 1988.
All about sharing
“Ann had a great eye for property. She could see what others couldn’t and so we found our home. It didn’t look like it does now but we turned it into the perfect place for us.”
There Ann and David together stepped into community activism, helping wherever they could.
However, Ann’s heart for helping others stems back much further than the move to north-east Scotland.
When the pair lived in Thailand they began supporting charities rescuing abandoned children. And when David was in Beirut during a bombing they forged links with Save the Children.
The youngsters supported by the couple now form part of their extended global family, with photos of Lebanese, African, Mexican, Canadian and Asian children – who now have families of their own – adorning David and Ann’s fridge at home.
“The core values around which we have lived our life are sharing and caring. And it’s been a great joy and privilege to share our good fortunes with others.
“We are both Christians – but not in any small-minded sense. We aren’t sectarian at all; but Christian in the sense that we do believe we are called to love our neighbour.”
The Wakefields became parishioners at St Mary’s Blairs when they moved to Culter.
And both became involved in the parish and community councils.
Ann had a spell as community council secretary and she was also a prominent figure on the gala committee, helping with fundraising. She also helped to establish and develop the resilience emergency response unit.
She was also part of the team behind The Culter Courier. Ann helped to organise and distribute the quarterly publication.
Other involvement included memberships of the Scalan Association, IM Marsh Association of Past Students, Camden School for Girls Association, Wakefield Girls High School Association, Culter Community and District Association and Culter Heritage Association.
Ann was also an animal and bird lover and she loved the Highlands and Islands.
Skye, the Western Isles, St Kilda, Orkney and Shetland remained favourite places along with her motto: “Leave no road untravelled”.
Ann read widely and loved maps, charts, family histories and puzzles.
Outwith Scotland she loved to travel to wild and remote places as well as London, San Francisco, Mexico City, Boston, Anchorage, Moscow and Kathmandu.
She loved life, but most of all she loved Culter.
Surrounded by the couple’s five dogs David added: “You know, when I think about it, Ann was just a lovely person. She loved people, she loved animals… she loved Culter.
“She passed away after a short illness brought on after having Covid some months ago. In all honesty, I wasn’t ready for her departure despite her efforts to prepare me.
“But I don’t think many people will have lived a life like we did. Ann made the most of every minute and it is my honour and privilege to have shared life with her and cared for her down the years to the end.
“Yes, I miss her mightily. She was very special indeed.”
Ann died on July 20. You can read the family’s announcement here.