Family and friends say farewell to museum’s ‘pocket whirlwind’

Gillian Pitt
Gillian Pitt

Tributes have been paid to the chairman of the Crawley Museum Society, who has died, aged 82.

Gillian Pitt, who was fondly known by friends as “a pocket whirlwind” suffered a massive stroke on July 1 as she prepared to leave her home in Millfield Court, Ifield.

As well as being a lynch pin of the museum, Gillian was chairman of the U3A and clerk for the Ifield Society of Friends, at the Quaker Meeting House.

Her son, Martin, described her as a “vibrant and dynamic person”, adding: “She would challenge people’s conceptions and actions, and saw herself as a force for good and betterment. She had boundless energy to the last, a love of communities, social cohesion, the arts and travel, for culture and experience.”

That love of communities over the years saw her work for the Citizens Advice Bureau and as a marriage guidance counsellor with Relate.

She also spent two years on the panel of the Independent Television Authority (1968-1970) - even though she had no television.

Martin said: "When she joined we had no TV, something she did not feel was odd at all.

"She used to tell the story that after a few months Lew Grade, the chair of the ITV companies, found out that she was on the panel but had no TV.

"He was also chairman of Radio Rentals so he immediately wrote a chit to go and get one”

Gillian had a long association with the Open University, serving as a senior counsellor/tutor from 1970 until her retirement in 2005.

Not one to stay idle, she has worked enthusiastically to see the museum moved to its new home at the Tree.

Curator Helen Poole said: “She was really keen to see the project through, so it is very poignant that she should be taken from us just as the finishing strait is beginning to come into view. On a personal level, I shall miss her very much, as she was such a stimulating companion.”

She added: “A polished speaker, she gave talks on Crawley New Town, Ifield, modern history, artists in Sussex and the Quakers, which became a subject very close to her heart.

“She had a wide range of interests, remembering with pleasure seeing Richard Burton as Hamlet, but prepared to try something new. We shall not see her like again.”

Geraint Thomas said he would remember her as “always smiling, patient and encouraging”.

He added: “She was a person of firm ideals and beliefs, which on occasion were cogently and concisely expressed in the letters pages of the Guardian newspaper.

“Many people will miss Gillian but will I am sure remember her fondly, for instance, when they look upon or visit the new Crawley Museum which she worked so hard to brings towards fruition.”

Gillian was the only child of new town advocate Arnold Whittick and his wife Helen.

She married Brian Pitt in 1957, the couple having met at the London School of Economics. They lived first in Southgate and then in Gossops Green and had two children – Alison and Martin – six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Brian died in August 2005.

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