Westbourne will miss Jim Barlow, who passed away in April. Not only did he set up and run the very successful village website for many years but he was truly interested and engaged in the life of the community. Some might argue that there are more stimulating ways of spending a Thursday evening than attending a parish council meeting but Jim was invariably there, always asking pertinent and insightful questions and constantly seeking to ensure that the community was kept fully informed.
Jim was often asked if he would ever consider becoming a member of the parish council, as his interest in, and understanding of, Westbourne made him an extremely suitable candidate but he always insisted that his contribution to the village was predominantly through the running of the website. His contribution, however, was far greater. In addition to his input at our monthly meetings, Jim became involved in many important projects. For example, he was a member of the Westbourne Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, working on the document which it is hoped will soon form the third tier of planning law and enable us to have some element of control over how the parish develops in the future. Jim was part of the small group which promoted and eventually ensured
that we were one of the first villages in West Sussex to have a 20mph zone. Jim was involved with the planning of the installation of the village gateways, which now greet people as they drive into Westbourne and encourage them to ‘Please drive slowly through our village’ and thanks them for doing so as they leave. And it doesn’t stop there. From the outset, Jim was involved in the Greening Westbourne Community Orchard project at Hampshire Farm Meadows, his understanding of trees being invaluable to the less experienced members of the group and his willingness to muck in with the planting and protection of the trees was, as always, exemplary.
Having known Jim initially and primarily as a consequence of our shared interest in the community, it is easy to overlook that his numerous community-focused activities had to be fitted in alongside his many other interests. Jim, and his wife-to-be Helen, met in their teenage years and spent all their 48 years of married life in Westbourne. Not only did they raise their two lovely children Jo and Michael here, but also transformed their property in Mill Lane into a veritable paradise. Who could resist the beautiful cottage set in a truly magnificent garden, in which a great deal of love and expertise had clearly been invested? Not to mention the field at the back, hosted many party families.
Jim was one of those rare people who one can love, respect and admire in equal portions. The strength and dignity which he demonstrated when diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and throughout his final year, came as no surprise. I will never forget, when visiting Jim in the Rowans Hospice, just three days before his passing, his apologising for not being particularly social. It says it all.
Commiserations go to all Jim’s family, especially Helen, whose love and support throughout many years of married life – and in the last difficult months – are surely an example to us all.
I would like to end with the committal piece chosen by Jim and read out at his funeral. Jim, you were a success and you will be sadly missed.
“What is success?
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882). American essayist, lecturer, and poet.