FAMILY tributes have been paid to Beth Howes, a stalwart of Swindon’s market trade for more than 30 years, after she lost her battle with cancer.
Beth, 54, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in May and passed away on August 20 with family around her in her garden, where she wanted to be.
Although she never moved away from Whitley, Reading, Beth worked a flower stall in Swindon town centre for more than 30 years in various locations.
She was well known among the homeless community, whom she helped wherever possible, and might be best remembered for her resistance to Swindon Council’s decision to banish street traders in 2010.
Her sister Debbie Selby, 56, moved from their family home in Reading to Swindon 17 years ago, and lives in Mulcaster Avenue.
“Floristry and markets was her life. She came to work in Fleet Street market about 30 years ago and commuted every day to and from the town,” she said.
“She fought for a lot of causes. Obviously the street trading, when the council tried to move them all out of the town centre despite the fact they’d all been there 20-odd years.
“Thousands of people signed their petition but obviously to no avail. She also covered all the lampposts in The Parade with yellow ribbons when Madeleine McCann went missing.
“She loved children and would work to fundraise for children’s charities. She loved people, she was very much a people’s person.
“Anybody in need or less fortunate than her, she’d take them under her wing and try to help them.
“There were lots of homeless people she would help. She would buy them food, coffees and teas, as well as finding them beds for the night.”
In 2004, Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer and she was forced to take time off from the flower stall, but she fought it and returned to work.
She was working with the Flower Barrow in The Parade when the council announced its plans to remove street traders and, despite losing, co-ordinated a petition with more than 2,000 signatures.
After being moved from the town centre, Beth took her stall to the far side of the underpass in Fleming Way, but a low footfall meant it did not last and this led her to start work as a carer in Reading, which Debbie said she enjoyed.
She said: “She did it for 30 years but I’m not even sure if it was the flowers. I think it was the people and being outside. She loved meeting people. She dealt with weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries and deaths. She was so much a part of everyone’s lives in Swindon.
“That’s the relationship she absolutely loved.”
Beth’s funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church in Reading on Wednesday, September 10 at 2.30pm.