Elizabeth Barton

Elizabeth Barton, born 13 February 1921 in Essex, UK, died 1 May 2020 in Dorset UK – just 9 months before her 100th birthday

Elizabeth completed her nursing and midwifery studies in the south of England, followed by a Health Visitor’s Certificate at University College, Southampton.  From 1945-1952 she worked as a Staff Nurse, Midwife, and District Nurse/Midwife/Health Visitor in southern counties of the UK before joining WHO in 1953.  Her assignments as a Nurse/Nursing Adviser were in countries of three WHO Regions – Pakistan, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo - before she took up the post of Midwife/Public Health Nurse in the Division of Family Health at HQ, in June 1973.  Elizabeth resigned from WHO end 1978 but undertook an assignment as Consultant, Nursing Services Administration in Papua New Guinea for four months end 1980. 

Elizabeth was very proud of her work with WHO in so many parts of the world and throughout her life spoke passionately about preventative health care and health education. Having had the opportunity to meet many of her former colleagues, often when they came to stay with Elizabeth, it was clear that she was a highly respected professional who had played a pioneering role in aspects of maternal and child care in the regions where she was posted.

With a brother and family in the UK and a sister and family in Australia, with a total of eight nephews and nieces across the two families, Elizabeth was a much loved aunt who brought the two parts of her family together through her frequent visits and correspondence.

She retired first to Bristol and then, after four years, moved to West Dorset where she spent her many remaining years. She was very active in local campaigns for peace and was a ‘Greenham Woman,’ actively opposing the installation of American cruise missiles on UK soil.  She became a member of the Quakers. She taught French through the local University of the Third Age, enjoyed participating in a local reading group, was a keen gardener and had a wide circle of friends both locally and with former WHO colleagues with whom she maintained regular correspondence. She died very peacefully at her care home in West Bay near Bridport.

Peter Barton, nephew

I first met Elizabeth at the BAFUNCS annual reunion in 2011 – she was already 90 years old.  On learning that I had worked for WHO, Elizabeth immediately came over for a chat and we enjoyed our chats at several more BAFUNCS reunions until our last meeting together in 2016.  At age 95 years, she was still taking public transport by herself to get to the meetings many miles away.  Elizabeth was a real role model:  she maintained her active interest in life, in the BAFUNCS meetings – often asking questions – and in what was happening at WHO.  I recall her writing to the Association of Former WHO Staff Members questioning the visibility of the role of nursing in the Organization and she was delighted to learn that Dr Tedros had instituted the post of Chief Nursing Officer.   She had an email address and used it until fairly recently.  We corresponded occasionally and my last letter from her arrived recently, just after the home where she resided went into lockdown.  She was so looking forward to celebrating her 100th birthday next February, but that was not to be.  Elizabeth was an amazing lady and will be greatly missed.

Sue Block Tyrrell

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