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Arsenal fan Val never forgot her north London roots

Family share memories of 'gentle and very kind' medical secretary who caught the coronavirus, describing how she loved Chapel Market and the Gunners

05 June, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Valerie White’s family lived in Ashburton Grove for more than 50 years

FAMILY members have paid tribute to a “kind and gentle” former NHS worker born and bred in Islington who loved Arsenal and Chapel Market, and never forgot her roots.

Valerie White’s family lived in Ashburton Grove – now the site of the Emirates Stadium – for more than 50 years.

Ms White worked as a medical secretary in Sidcup for 33 years. Her sister, Lesley Shepherd, told the Tribune she loved the job so much she stayed on past the age most people then chose to retire.

“Val was lovely,” added Ms Shepherd. “She was always the big sister, from when she was quite young really. She used to be sent down the road for milk and cheese when she was seven.

“Val was respon­sible from a young age, and used to keep an eye on us. She was very gentle and very kind.

“She never married, and once she had nieces and nephews she would have given them the top brick of the chimney if they wanted it.”

Following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ms White had been living in extra care housing near Sidcup, before she was hospitalised after a fall.

While recovering in hospital Ms White caught the coronavirus and was discharged to a nearby care home with end of life care. She died on April 23, aged 73.

Her sister described the pain of not being able to see her in her last weeks.

“On her last day they asked me if I wanted to come in and see her,” said Ms Shepherd. “It was such a hard decision, but I decided not to because of the situation around the virus. They held the phone to her ear and I told her we all loved her.

“I hope she heard it, but it was just laboured breathing on the other side, so who knows.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t have recognised me if I had gone in.”

Ms White’s niece, former Labour MP for Redcar Anna Turley, said she remembered how much her aunt loved Chapel Market and Arsenal.

“She was so modest and unassuming,” added Ms Turley.

“It’s not clear whether the Covid was the cause of death, but she would certainly have been with us still if it weren’t for this situation, and it was devastating not to see her for the last few weeks of her life or be with her at her passing.”

Ms White’s funeral was held on May 21 with 10 family members in attendance. So many flowers were sent that mourners couldn’t see the coffin underneath them.

Ms Shepherd added: “Val always had a big soft spot for north London. Even after we moved to the south, she thought of herself as a north London girl. All the family do, really. That is where our roots are.

“We remember going shopping in Upper Street, in Chapel Market and life in Highbury, Holborn and Ashburton Grove.

“We always used to laugh as children when we would stamp our feet under the Holloway Road arches to make the echo.

“My Dad worked as a dustman when Val was born, in Canonbury Square and by the New River. We used to do very well from all the unwanted toys people would give him on his rounds.”


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