Niece of British dazzle camouflage artist Norman Wilkinson celebrates her 100th birthday in Worthing

Artistic talent runs in the family of former graphic designer Joan Stratford, who will celebrate her 100th birthday on Saturday.

She is the niece of British artist Norman Wilkinson, who developed dazzle camouflage to protect ships from German U-boats in the First World War.

Joan Stratford celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends at Berkeley Lodge in Worthing

Joan Stratford celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends at Berkeley Lodge in Worthing

Joan, who has lived at Berkeley Lodge, Shelley Road, Worthing, since March, had a long career designing dress patterns. She also drew the finished article for adverts in newspapers and magazines.

She said: “It was a nice life. After I went freelance, when you have an agent, you know, then of course I didn’t have to do all the walking about, doing interviews. That was better.

“Even after I retired and I was down on the coast, I was being asked to do it but I said no.”

Joan broke off to serve as a land girl during the Second World War but went back to her career afterwards and is still in touch with her former workmate, Olive.

She met her late husband at the advertising agency where she worked before she went freelance and married late in life.

They lived in Twickenham but sadly, he died suddenly at a railway station in France in the 1980s. Joan later moved to Eastbourne and then East Preston for a few years.

Joan was born in London on December 22, 1918, the second child of Mattie and Frank Wilkinson.

Her father, who was Norman’s brother, had gone to America on his own at the age of 14 and worked his way across the country as a farmhand, as well as taking jobs on ships when he was near water.

He joined the Army in the First World War but lost a lung, so was not able to work again. He met his future wife when she was an auxiliary nurse during the war and they set up home in London.

Their first child was their son Francis, then Joan followed a year later. After many years living in south London, Frank and Mattie, whose real name was Daisy, moved down to Goring.

Francis died in 1991 but his widow, Diana Wilkinson, was able to visit her sister-in-law for her birthday. Diana and her son Marcus visited from America and a small party was held for Joan at Berkeley Lodge last Friday.

Among the guests was Ray Denyer, a former neighbour from East Preston who has remained a good friend.

He spoke of Joan’s love of gardening and her dedication to planting it out each year.

Ray said: “Her gardening was all one colour. She would not put in colours that didn’t mix. She was always seed gathering. It was the centre of her life.”

Elaine Shelton, from Berkeley Lodge, said Joan loves being out in the garden at the home and especially enjoys sitting in the sunshine.

Diana said: “The staff here have made such a difference to her life. It is really her community now.”

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