Tributes to adventurous and hard-working Citizens Advice Bureau volunteer
- Credit: Steve Highton
A former Citizens Advice Bureau stalwart and wartime petty officer described as extremely intelligent, hard-working and adventurous has died.
Great-grandmother Violet Highton, 96, from New Buckenham, died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on January 14 following an infection not related to coronavirus.
From 1980 until 2011, when she was 86-years-old, she volunteered for Norwich Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) where she started out as as advisor but ended up being a debt counsellor and trainer.
Her efforts were recognised with a Norwich City Council civic award in 2010.
Her oldest son, Steve Highton, 64, an architectural designer from New Buckenham, said: "She was a very modest woman. She never talked about her achievements and just got on with things. She didn't do the work for recognition. She did it because she felt she could help people, and indeed she did.
"She was an extremely intelligent woman and was often representing people and making phone calls to financial departments on their behalf."
Although she was not someone who "blew her own trumpet", Mr Highton said one of his mother's proudest moments within the CAB was winning a legal fight for a Portuguese family which took several years.
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Mrs Highton, nee Stabb, was the youngest child of Sir Newton Stabb - the general manager of the former Hongkong and Shanghai Bank which later became HSBC - and was born in Palace Gate, Kensington.
She grew up in Farnham Hall near Saxmundham, Suffolk, and after being educated at home until 13, she went to West Heath School in Sevenoaks, Kent, until she was 18 when she joined the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS).
From 1942 until 1946, her role was to log radio signals in the north of Scotland between Thurso and Wick and she was promoted to petty officer.
"She joined the WRNS because she preferred the dark blue uniform," her son said. "She was very nearly sent to Bletchley Park but wasn't to her enormous relief. She found out it was extremely tedious. She said it was a very enjoyable time and formed friendships with local people."
After leaving the WRNS she gained her secretarial qualifications and became the assistant to Sir Julian Huxley, the late evolutionary biologist and brother to Brave New World author Aldous Huxley.
Mr Highton added: "She didn't particularly like Julian but said Aldous was an exceptionally nice and interesting person."
She met her future husband, Basil Highton, who worked for Shell energy company, in the late 1940s and they were married in the early 1950s.
After a few years in Angola, Africa, where the couple had to live for Mr Highton's work, they moved to Wiltshire where he retrained in agriculture.
In 1959 they took on Old Hall Farm in Forncett St Mary, near Long Stratton, where they had a dairy herd and arable land.
Mrs Highton, who was caring for her four children by this time, decided to move into local politics and in 1968/9 she was elected as ward councillor for the former Depwade Rural District, before local councils were restructured in 1974.
Her son said his mother did not carry on in local politics after that because she felt unable to do the job properly under the new two-tier structure.
Despite that her interest in politics and the community continued and she attended the New Buckenham Parish Council meetings as a local resident each month and co-ordinated the village's community car share.
The family moved to Wattlefield, near Wymondham, in 1976 after Mr Highton, who died in 2012, stopped farming. The couple then moved to New Buckenham in 2001.
In true adventurous style, Mrs Highton completed a tandem parachute jump aged 82 in 2006 just because she wanted to, according to her son.
He said: "She loved it. She had an enormous grin on her face."
The keen gardener was also the inspiration behind a conservation project to plant trees in New Buckenham, set up within the past two years, after she wrote an impassioned letter about protecting the environment which was published.
Mr Highton said: "She was extremely pro-active in general village life. She would help anyone. She was a lovely woman and I feel lucky to have spent time with her. She was funny, adventurous and exceedingly independently-minded."
The family is collecting for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and donations can be sent to R. J. Bartram and Son Funeralcare in Wymondham.