Obituary: Methodist whose long marriage began with letters dies, aged 86

Patricia Rolls (left) pictured with her husband, Alec (above), and their tour guide in Eygpt

The happy couple: Patricia Rolls (left) pictured with her husband, Alec (above), and their tour guide in Eygpt - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A lifelong Norwich City fan whose Christian faith “was at the heart of everything she did” has died aged 86. 

Patricia Rolls has been described by her family as “an amazing lady who lived out her faith in love and action in the community on a daily basis”.

A key member of the Methodist community, she remained active in the church throughout her life and was particularly passionate about bringing opportunities of faith to all people, especially those in rural locations.

Patricia Mary Alden was born during the summer of 1935 on the family farm in Burgh St Peter, south Norfolk. Her childhood with her parents and siblings, Peter and Brenda, has been described as “cherished and formative times”. 

Patricia Rolls enjoyed her childhood where she grew up on the family farm in Norfolk

A well-spent youth: Patricia Rolls enjoyed her childhood where she grew up on the family farm in Norfolk - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Throughout her life, Mrs Rolls fondly regaled childhood memories of her early days spent on the marshes, family celebrations, and entertaining capers in the family home, such as visits from Father Valentine.

Less happy memories included a time when tragedy was narrowly avoided when she became badly injured in a riding accident as a girl. She was nursed back to full health by Dr Mackay, who went on to be an internationally renowned surgeon and inventor of a pioneering brace that helps with patient recovery.

Mrs Rolls attended school at Wheatacre Primary School before moving to Sir John Leman High School, Beccles, which invariably necessitated a panicked bicycle ride to catch the train at the now-defunct Aldeby Station. During these years, many of her lifelong friendships were formed. 

Patricia Rolls at her 21st birthday dinner and dance celebration at the Arlington Rooms in Newmarket Road, Norwich

Family celebrations: Patricia Rolls at her 21st birthday dinner and dance celebration at the Arlington Rooms in Newmarket Road, Norwich - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

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During the Second World War, the farm provided rest and recuperation to servicemen, many from Canada. It also hosted a gun battery to protect Lowestoft and near disaster once struck when the house roof was almost blown off by a shell that was accidentally fired while a horizonal Ack Ack gun was being cleaned.

Then, during the early post-war years, the farm welcomed children from war-ravished mainland Europe, particularly the Netherlands, and maintained close connections with stationed US servicemen. This resulted in a bedrock of friends from around the globe which meant opportunities for many holiday adventures were created.

Mrs Rolls’ strong Christian faith was at the heart of everything she did and she was an active member of the Methodist church throughout her days. She was particularly passionate about rural Methodism as she believed people deserved the same opportunities to grow in their faith wherever they lived.

Her local chapel was the Burgh St Peter Chapel which linked in with the MAYC Beccles and Bungay Youth Group, which she co-led.   

Her eldest son, David, explained that it was one of the most active Methodist youth clubs in the country at the time. 

“Many young lives were touched during this time.

"There was a very active programme, including night walks, fundraising events, and a very wet evening on the streets of London to get a prime spot for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

“Its membership also included a certain David Frost who cut his jib writing the club’s pantomime scripts."

Patricia Rolls (back row, second from left) securing a front-row spot ready for the Queen's Coronation the next day

Whatever the weather: Patricia Rolls (back row, second from left) securing a front-row spot ready for the Queen's Coronation the next day - despite the torrential rain! - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

And it was during one of these adventures to the Methodist retreat, Lindors, in the Wye Valley in 1969 that she first met her future husband, Alec. A full-time youth worker from Devon, he was on leave for a week of calm and contemplation.

David added: “Unbeknown to him, mum rocked up with her energetic youth group, full of the joys of Norfolk.

“Once he had recovered from the shock, a long-distanced letter-writing courtship ensued with the pair reputedly only meeting three more times before their wedding and subsequent near 50 years of marriage. 

“The East Anglian Friesian Breeders Club Annual dinner in February 1970 provided a unique setting for the marriage proposal.”

Marsh memories: Patricia Rolls was "at her happiest" when spending time on the Norfolk marshes with her family and dogs

Marsh memories: Patricia Rolls (centre) was "at her happiest" when spending time on the Norfolk marshes with her family and dogs - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Rolls emigrated to rural Devon during the 1970s where she spent a "very happy” 40-plus years with her late husband and two sons, David and Christopher. Mr Rolls was a former district youth officer on behalf of the Methodist church in Devon as well as chair of the County Princes Trust on behalf of HM. He died in January 2020.

“Mum was just as active in the local community in Devon, as she was in her native Norfolk. 

“She invariably befuddled Devonians with her Norfolk phraseology, but a constant stream of Eastern Daily Press and Pink Un cuttings made sure she was always up on the local news on the Canaries form, of whom she was an avid fan.”  

Forever devoted: Patricia Rolls (right) with fellow youth club member Kevin Parfitt (left)

Forever devoted: Patricia Rolls (right) with fellow youth club member Kevin Parfitt (left) - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Rolls died at her home in Silverton, Devon, on December 28, 2021. Her last wish was to make sure that her death was followed by a joyful thanksgiving service. Before her death, she said: "My thanksgiving should be a time of praise for all my blessings – a happy home by the marshes in Norfolk, a dear family in Devon, plus friendships spreading throughout God’s wonderful world.”