Josie Hall

YOU would be hard pressed to find many in Exmouth who don t know of at least one person whose life was touched by hotelier Josie Hall, who died on the eve of her 77th birthday.

YOU would be hard pressed to find many in Exmouth who don't know of at least one person whose life was touched by hotelier Josie Hall, who died on the eve of her 77th birthday.

For more than 30 years, first as owner of The Royal Beacon Hotel and then Alliston House Hotel in Salterton Road, Josephine Jill Hall, hosted literally hundreds of christening parties, wedding receptions and funeral wakes.

Josie, who died on July 29 at her Seafield Avenue home, surrounded by friends and family, was an extremely popular member of the community.

She was loved for her sense of humour and, as one of her friends Ron Morrison-Smith, the former director of the West Country Tourist Board, put it, "hospitality just ran in her veins."

She was an East Devon girl through-and-through; born July 30 1932 at Wares Farm in Farringdon.

Her father was a farmer, John James Jeffries, while her mother, Ellen Maude Summers, was something of a local celeb because as well as being a respected amateur dramatist and opera singer, she was at the time the only female master butcher in England - the family business was Summers Butchers on Exeter Road.

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Josie's local roots ran deep: her grandfather on her mother's side was chairman of the old Exmouth Urban Council in the 19th century as well as a founder member of the Madeira Bowls Club.

"Another long-standing friend, Ann Southcott, told me that they used to pull Josie's leg a bit when she was younger," said Mr Morrison-Smith at her funeral service at Withycombe Raleigh Parish Church. "...because her mother sent her for elocution lessons to eradicate her Devon farm accent!"

Her father and Josie herself were also members and a memorial bench at the Club is planned for this year with all three names inscribed.

Initially educated in Sidmouth up to the age of 13, she then went to Exmouth Grammar School and her first job was in Boots.

A life-long sports enthusiast, by her teens she was a prodigious tennis player and, Ron said: "She was a very sporty lady - her house is just packed with trophies. Her father spent many weekends driving her to tournaments all round the country."

In 1955, when she was 22, she married her first husband, builder and decorator Dennis Lark and in the mid-1960s, together they bought Royal Beacon Hotel, which they ran together until around 1985, when they parted.

But she found companionship again with her second husband, veteran News of The World journalist Roger Hall, who had moved down to spend the last few years of his career in the more gentle media environment of East Devon, away from the stresses of Fleet Street.

Roger, who had settled into his role as presenter for Radio Devon, had famously been the journalist who hid former model and showgirl Christine Keeler at the height of the Profumo Affair, when scandal involving Defence Minister John Profumo brought down the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan in 1963.

Around the same time she remarried, Josie bought Alliston House Hotel, in Salterton Road, a business she was to run until it was sold in 1998.

But, sadly, in 1992 tragedy struck: her only son Julian, who as manager continued to run the Royal Beacon Hotel with his father, died in 1992 at the age of 30.

Josie was a keen sports woman all through her life; as well as her tennis exploits and membership of the Bowling Club, she was captain of the Ladies East Devon Golf Club in 2000 - Roger was men's captain in 1994 - and a member of 'To The Manor Born', a ladies golf group who met at The Manor Hotel.

"Josie was very active and excelled at sports. More recently, a typical day for her would be golf in the morning, bowling in the afternoon followed by bridge in the evening!" said Ron Morrison-Smith.

He added: "In more recent years, she has enjoyed globe trotting, cruising and visits to far-flung places like Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

"She was a jovial, jolly, really friendly person, a loving person and a true friend to many people. Hospitality just ran in her veins.

"There must have been more than 200 people packed into the church. Throughout all the trials and tribulations of life she always kept her sense of humour and her approach to life.

"Farewell dear Josie, you were a great friend to Sheila and me.