Tributes to much-loved village GP who came to love the countryside

Dr Jean Lacey

Dr Jean Lacey during her time at medical school in the late 1940s and early '50s - Credit: Supplied by the Lacey Family

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved village GP who has passed away at the age of 92.

Jean Lacey was born in Wigan in 1929 and died peacefully  at her home in Watlington, near Downham Market, on December 21 with her husband Hugh and daughters Pippa and Jacqui at her side.

She ran the village surgery with her husband from their home on the Downham Road after moving to the village from Fakenham  in 1959, until the couple opened a new surgery on Thieves Bridge Road in 1981.

"It was great fun," the couple's oldest daughter, Philippa, said. "All the patients all became our friends."

Dr Hugh Lacey

Dr Hugh Lacey, whose wife Jean passed away on December 21 at the couple's home in Watlington - Credit: Chris Bishop

Dr Lacey's husband Hugh added: "It was literally living over the shop. It was unlike today because you were on call all the time."

Patients were frequently knocking on the door, while medicines were left for collection out of hours outside in a cabinet, with an honesty box for payment.

Dr Lacey said his wife was not immediately accepted by some patients as a female doctor, who referred to her as "the nurse".

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He added: "She was finally accepted by some members of the farming community when she delivered a baby donkey in the field here."

Hugh and Jean Lacey

Hugh and Jean Lacey - Credit: Supplied by the Lacey family

The Laceys met in 1948, when the couple started at Leeds medical school in the year the NHS was formed. They married in 1952 and went on to have children Philippa, Jacqui and Dominic.

"She was a bright, intelligent, loving, interested person who wasn't sure about the countryside to begin with but she loved it eventually," her husband said. "She loved her nature."

Miss Lacey said her mother also loved being surrounded by animals.

Jean Lacey

Dr Jean Lacey, centre, leaning on her husband's shoulder, surrounded by family members - Credit: Supplied by the Lacey Family

"She raised a cuckoo we found in a tree sparrow's nest in the garden once," she said. "We had dogs, donkeys, cats, Guinea pigs, a rabbit, chickens and ducks that used to go and sit in the middle of the road."

Dr Lacey said his wife enjoyed socialising and hosting dances at their house.

In her work, she was known as a compassionate doctor who truly cared about her patients and social justice.

Dr Jean Lacey

Dr Jean Lacey, who assed away on December 21 - Credit: Supplied by the Lacey Family

The contraceptive pill was introduced in the early 1960s, when there was an initial reluctance among some GPs to prescribe it.

With Dr Betty Elliot, Dr Lacey set up a contraceptive clinic in Lynn which they continued to run for many years.

After she retired, in 1997, Dr Lacey liked spending time with her family and enjoyed her garden and the nature it attracted.

Her eldest grandson Tim Eresh, now 31, said: "She was a very cool grandmother, even in her 90s. She had a real character, a spark in her eye and a contagious smile."

jean lacey

Lacey Close, in Watlington, which was named after village doctors Hugh and Jean Lacey - Credit: Chris Bishop

Dr Lacey enjoyed socialising and going to concerts and the theatre until the pandemic arrived in early 2020.

As the pace of lockdown life slowed, her memory began to fade. But her family say she was not distressed and continued to warmly welcome visits when permitted, even if through a window or outside.

She remained mobile until almost the very end and her passing was peaceful, without pain, at home and with her family.

Villagers knew her as Dr Jean. The Laceys had a close named after them when new bungalows were built off St Peter's Road in the 1990s.

Dr Jean Lacey obit

Cards from well-wishers at the Lacey family home - Credit: Chris Bishop

A dresser in the kitchen of the family home is filled with cards from well-wishers.

One says: "Dr Jean was a very special lady, caring, understanding and kind."

Another adds: "She was one of a kind, a lovely lady."

One wrote: "I remember Dr Jean with admiration. She was an inspiration, especially to many women she helped and worked with."

Dr Lacey's funeral was held at the Church of St Peter and Paul, in Watlington, on December 31.

She was carried into church in a wicker coffin by her son Dominic and grandsons Joseph Lacey, Edward Lacey and Tim Eresh.

Granddaughter Yasmine Eresh sang Tears in Heaven during the service, after which Dr Lacey was interred in the churchyard.

She leaves a husband, three children and grandchildren Tim, Yasmin, Joseph, Tabitha, Edward and Jemima.

Donations in her memory can be made to Medecins Sans Frontieres at www.tfs/obituary.

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