Crowds turn out to bid farewell to popular Topsham woman

MORE than 250 people packed into St Margaret’s Church for the funeral of a popular Topsham woman.

A large crowd of Annette van Oppen’s family and friends, filled every seat in the church to bid a final farewell to the 75-year-old at a moving service held last week.

The former journalist and teacher, of Drakes Cottage, Monmouth Hill, died on March 2 at Exeter Hospice following a long battle with a rare type of cancer.

Mrs van Oppen, who had served as governor of Topsham School and edited the town’s monthly newsletter, Estuary Magazine, was the beloved wife of Richard, loving mother and stepmother of Van, Tammy, Kate, Sarah and Simon as well as a proud grandmother.

In an emotional tribute, Mr van Oppen, a former city mayor and Greater Devon Coroner, speaking at the service, said: “Annette loved life. She loved our family, our wider family and her many friends.

“She loved her home, her garden and this church.”

He added: “She loved this community: vibrant and caring. She loved this town, its shops and people.

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“She loved books, poetry and above all was her love of music. It was this (music) which kept her going through her last hours.”

The funeral service was made all the more emotional because Mrs van Oppen had drafted many of its features – such as the music, which included the song Benedictus from The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins being played.

A message penned by Mrs van Oppen and read out in church by Imogen, the daughter of Sarah, Richard’s daughter, reinforced the point of how she adored living in Topsham.

“I have loved being in this little town and contributing to its welfare in whatever way I could,” it said.

“As a governor for many years at our excellent middle school, helping to give to children a sensible code for life.

“I also had huge fun editing Estuary magazine after Francis Luscombe had nursed it into existence and which introduced me to the golden heart of the town and its community.

“It has been this thread of gold running through the town that has been such a huge support and comfort to us over the past long months.”

A spokesperson for St Margaret’s said the attendance for the funeral was one of the largest ever seen at the church and testament to her popularity.

Mrs van Oppen and her husband lived in Topsham throughout their marriage. The music enthusiast met Richard in an ironmongers in Magdalen Road.

They married at Exeter Register Office, with a blessing at the cathedral, in 1979, the year in which he was mayor.

In a lifetime where she achieved so much, Mrs van Oppen served as vice president of the Devon branch of the Red Cross.

She was a benefactor of the Two Moors Festival, which was set up during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, to bring communities together and is still going strong.