My grandmother, Gladys Read, or "GG" as she was known to her family, has died aged 95. A much-loved and admired stalwart of community life in Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, Gladys had an inquiring mind and an opinion on everything
Gladys Read travelled to Paris and New York as a member of the UK team negotiating peace treaties after the second world war
She was born Gladys Anderson in East Ham, London, the elder of two daughters of Ethel and William, a ship's engineer in the London docks. The hardship brought on by William's frequent unemployment during the Great Depression undoubtedly helped form Gladys's stoicism and left-leaning politics; she read the Guardian every day for most of her adult life.
Gladys gained a scholarship to East Ham grammar school for girls before going on to join the civil service, working primarily in the Board of Trade. As for many of her generation, the second world war was one of the most difficult yet exhilarating times in her life. She commuted into London throughout the Blitz and narrowly avoided the V-1 flying bomb that hit the Aldwych in 1944, by throwing herself into the foyer of the Waldorf hotel.
In 1946 she travelled to Paris and New York as part of the UK delegation to the Council of Foreign Ministers, the series of conferences that negotiated the postwar peace treaties. The startling differences between ration-book London and the bright lights of New York, as well as her proximity to such historic events, made a lasting impression.
Gladys married Fred Read, a wireless engineer, in 1948; they had met through the Youth Hostels Association. They settled in Bushey Heath, where they raised their three children. After a life of indifferent health, Fred died in 1967. Supported through testing times by friends and her strong resolve, Gladys worked at Bushey and Watford college libraries and immersed herself in community life and her many interests. She was an active congregant of St Peter's church in Bushey Heath, serving on the parochial church council and playing a prominent role in the mothers' union. She attended writing and art classes, enjoyed rambling holidays and continued to travel as much as possible into her 90s.
Gladys is survived by her children, Ian, Neil and Pippa, seven grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.