Pauletta J Edwards obituary
Originally published in The Guardian, 22 February 2011
My friend of more than 40 years, Pauletta J Edwards, known as Paula, who has died from a brain haemorrhage aged 75, spent her whole childhood in the local authority care system. Her 1999 autobiography, Out of the Rubble, is an important contribution to the understanding of child deprivation. Paula’s life was an inspiration not only to those who started out in care as she did, but also to many who had perhaps greater opportunities.
Though partially sighted, Paula trained as a nurse, and it was while working as a theatre sister that she met Phyllis Edwards, an anaesthetist who later adopted her. Phyllis was instrumental in helping Paula to overcome some of the severe traumas she had suffered as a deprived child and young adult, brought up by nuns in an unloving environment.
Paula also worked as a teacher-trainer, university lecturer and international health-services adviser. She had a deep desire for justice, especially for children, and a great sense of humour. She was a wonderful mimic and spoke fluent French. She gave a number of radio interviews about her life and work.
In her late 50s she was forced to give up the work she loved after being attacked by drug addicts while working in Africa for Save the Children. She was left with injuries that made it impossible for her to travel thereafter. Instead, she developed interests that could be pursued at home and which could aid her fundraising for her chosen charities.
Her amazing knowledge of stamps, coins and buttons enabled her to raise hundreds of pounds. Her deep love for gardening and plants was put to use in research for Which? magazine, and she wrote and published poetry and articles. She worked with a cat-rescue charity and there were always two or three cats being looked after at her home at any one time; Paula seemed to have a particular rapport with them.
She and Phyllis received visits from many friends over the years, some who came at first, as I did, with a young family and whose children in turn became visitors in their own right. Others, many in the medical field, came from countries where Paula or Phyllis had worked.
Towards the end of Phyllis’s life Paula looked after her devotedly; Phyllis died in 2003. Paula herself was dogged by even more serious ill-health in her final years, and struggled hard to maintain her sense of self-worth and her integrity. Her death released her from this final, daunting period of a life lived otherwise with great courage and hope. She was a remarkable friend and an inspiration to all who knew her.