TRIBUTE: ‘We will never have another like her’

Rosemary and Steve Heywood in the Buckingham Christmas Parade
Rosemary and Steve Heywood in the Buckingham Christmas Parade

Residents have paid tribute to a woman who has been part of the fabric of the town for many people’s lifetimes.

One of the most prominent figures in Buckingham, Rosemary Heywood, who with her husband Steve ran the Buckingham Christmas Parade for 29 years, died last Thursday at Maids Moreton Hall, after suffering a stroke in November.

Born in Buckingham in 1933, Rosemary Payne attended Thornton College School.

An accomplished pianist, she began her career as a music teacher at Preston Bissett School. She continued playing all her life, and was an organist at her church, St Bernadine’s, until she became ill.

In the early 1960s, she took on the running of the family business, Payne’s Coaches, started by her father in 1922. She ran the business for almost 30 years, before selling it and developing the land into Payne’s Court.

She later wrote a book about her life as a woman in business in a man’s world, called Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.

She also ran a children’s clothes shop, called the Gingerbread House, in what is now the Post Office.

She met Steve, her second husband, in the 1970s and in 1981 they embarked on 35 years of very happy marriage.

Starting in a small way with a few floats and walkers, the Heywoods went on to develop the Buckingham Christmas Parade into the major event in the life of the town that it is today, with more than 50 entries.

Mr and Mrs Heywood stepped down from running the Christmas Parade in 2013, handing over the reins to a committee, chaired by town councillor Howard Mordue.

Mr Mordue said: “I remember her and Steve coming to Buckingham Town Council to see if the town council would underwite the cost, as the parade had grown significantly, which the council did.

“After all, who could refuse Rosemary? Her passion for keeping the parade running was obvious and she and Steve did most of the work between them.

“The Christmas Parade is a lasting tribute to Rosemary.”

Mrs Heywood also had a 20-year involvement with the Inner Wheel Club of Buckingham, holding most offices in her time on the committee.

She was presented with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Buckingham Rotary, in recognition of her exceptional service to the community.

Last year, she was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, being awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to the community of Buckingham.

Deputy Mayor of Buckingham, Andy Mahi, said: “She loved Buckingham, she really did, and she did so much for the town.”

Town councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “She was always a woman who knew exactly what she wanted to do. She was passionate about the parade and she gave so much pleasure to so many people.”

Mr Heywood said: “She was incredible, she really was. It’s a big loss for Buckingham. They’ll never have another like her in the town.”

Mrs Heywood also leaves two sons, Paul and John, and 15 grandchildren.

A thanksgiving service and Mass will be held at 2pm on Wednesday, April 1, at St Bernadine’s Church, Buckingham. Family flowers only are requested, but donations can be made to Medical Detection Dogs, one of Mrs Heywood’s favourite charities.