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Jean Foster obituary: Heath Players founder member and wife of former Hatfield Heath school head dies at 103



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Hatfield Heath legend Jean Foster has died, a day after her 103rd birthday.

Jean, a founder member of the Heath Players amateur drama group, died in the village she loved in the early hours of Tuesday (March 29).

She had been a popular character on the Heath since she moved there in 1955 with her husband Don, who was the village primary school head.

An early portrait of Jean Foster, who has died aged 103 (55847952)
An early portrait of Jean Foster, who has died aged 103 (55847952)

Jean was born on March 28, 1919 – four months after the end of the First World War – in Lincolnshire and married Don in 1942, a wartime romance.

The couple had three children: April, Anthony and Steve, who still lives on the Heath with wife Judith.

Jean had four granddaughters and six great-grandchildren – four boys and two girls.

Jean Foster in the role of Mrs Terence in Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams, the Heath Players' first production, in 1969
Jean Foster in the role of Mrs Terence in Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams, the Heath Players' first production, in 1969

Drama was a huge part of her life. She acted and directed in dozens of Heath Players productions in the Peter Lines auditorium at the village hall.

She was also a member of Bishop’s Stortford-based Group 64, Sawbridgeworth Players, Harlow Theatre Company and Roydon Players, and was involved in village Women's Institute theatre productions before Heath Players was formed in 1969.

Friend and fellow Heath Players director Mark Ratcliff said simply: “We will not see her like again.

"Jean's legacy to the Players truly cannot be underestimated. She kept the group alive in the 1990s through to 2000, being our only director of eight consecutive full productions.

Jean as Mrs Alving in Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (1972)
Jean as Mrs Alving in Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (1972)

"As well as acting and directing, she was a skilled make-up artist (always present backstage at pantomime time), acted as secretary for the group and for many years kept our wardrobe of costumes at her house.

"She was not one to suffer fools gladly and many of us (me included) were subject to her withering looks and comments if our behaviour did not come up to her own exacting standards. In general, such disagreements were soon put behind her as she moved on with the production. Her priority was always to put on the best show we possibly could."

He added: “It wasn’t just the Heath Players. Jean did so much more in the village, active with the church and hosting her famous cream teas for the festival. She was a wonderful lady who will be sorely missed.”

Jean Foster with her late husband Don – the couple moved to Hatfield Heath in 1955
Jean Foster with her late husband Don – the couple moved to Hatfield Heath in 1955

Actor and Heath Players member Joanna Bacon, who enjoys a professional stage, film and TV career including appearances in Holby City, Love Actually and three series of Breeders currently on Sky, said: “I first met Jean when we were both cast in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime [by Oscar Wilde].

“I was just starting out and from the first she inspired me with her discipline, confidence, attention to detail and wealth of experience, as well as her witty performance.

"Both as director and actor she was a great creative force with whom to work and set a fine example. I am very grateful for the opportunities she gave me.”

In recent years, due to declining health, Jean lived in the Hatfield Haven care home in the village. She joined son Steve and granddaughter Jess in a little sing-song just days before her passing.

Her funeral will take place at Holy Trinity Church in Hatfield Heath on Tuesday April 26 at 2pm.



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