Outlook 24
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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A serious volunteer
‘Lucky in life? Then you have responsibilities.’ So Rhonda Mary McComas Jacob was taught by her parents – and it became a major driving force in her life. We heard more of that remarkable life during her son Ian’s eulogy at a packed St Mary’s Church for her funeral in August. Born in Paris in 1931 to well-to-do parents, Rhonda grew up in Manhattan. ‘Life was quite grand at Park/88th Street’,’ said Ian. She soon showed her leadership potential, and was appointed Lawn Monitor (or ‘Grass Cop’) at school. Ever the maverick, she roller-skated to school each day, having convinced the family chauffeur that it was far more fun than being driven by him! Following school and university, Rhonda made her début at the Grosvenor Ball; but although she always loved fun, she made time for worthwhile voluntary work; for example, with the American Red Cross and Maryland Institute for the Blind. In 1953, Rhonda’s life changed completely, when she met a young naval officer, William Jacob, who proposed to her on their third meeting, and married her two months later. Married and moving to the UK was difficult at first, particularly cooking and running a household without servants, but the constant in her life was volunteering – ‘Serious volunteering’, she would say, ‘not just socialising.’ Caring for prisoners It was certainly serious! In Woodbridge, she began her twenty years’ voluntary work for HM Prison Service at Hollesley Bay, first as Chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board, and then with the Parole Review Body. She had a real care for the prisoners, aware that they had few advantages – poor education, bad parenting and no real purpose in life – and this led her to set up the Shannon Trust’s literacy scheme at Hollesley Bay. She later became a SACRO Housing Officer, in charge of eleven halfway houses for recently released men. On her so- called ‘retirement’, she didn’t stop volunteering, but involved herself with a variety of charities. Perhaps the highlight for her was supporting her husband’s charitable work during his year as High Sheriff of Suffolk. ‘A life lived well – and many of us are the better for her love and friendship’, said Ian, summing up at her funeral shortly before the burst of ebullient jazz music that concluded the service. It was a reminder, he added, of how she would ‘dance competitively with my father – just the two of them – to Nabucco and Carmen, Il Trovatore, Golden Gate Spirituals and the Black Eagles Jazz Band!’