Supporting and enhancing the development of competence in neuroscience nursing

Members' obituraries

Judith Veronica Withers (nee Charles) 1947 – 2020


Judy Withers aged 72, peacefully passed away in Sobell House Hospice, Oxford, on the 4th of June 2020 the day before her 73rd birthday. 

Judy was born and raised in St John on the beautiful island of Antigua; one of several children, and grew up in a large extended family.  She was educated in Christ the King school, and Antigua Girls High school, leaving with 2 A level GCE's. Throughout her life Judy maintained regular contact, visits and support for her Caribbean family, being closest to her full sisters Muff and Cutie, their families, and 'Tanti Grace' in New York who survived the World Trade Centre tragedy. She was on her way to work there when the planes struck.

Judy left Antigua in 1967 to pursue a nursing career in the UK. She often joked about how surprised the Oxford interview panel appeared when a tall black lady with an English sounding name presented for interview! She was probably the first black nursing student in Oxford in the 1960's, qualifying in 1970. Of course she later became the first black Matron in Oxford.

Judy and Simon had been pen-pals for a year or so before she arrived in Oxford, and they were subsequently engaged, then married, in June 1971 in St Aloysius Church in Oxford. They then left for Kumasi, Ghana for a ten year period with Simon's work. During this time she worked as an Industrial nurse and taught the final year nursing students at Maase Offinso Hospital. In 1974 Judy set up a clinic/dispensary at a girls boarding school where she eventually had proper premises, a budget, and even the staff came to her for treatment!

While in Ghana Judy returned to Antigua and nursed her grandmother through her final days, returning to the UK in 1981 with Simon and their adopted daughter Simone.

In 1982, moving permanently near to Oxford, Judy quickly got a post at the Radcliffe Infirmary, spending the remaining 26 years of her nursing career working in the specialist field of Neurosciences in Oxford.  The posts she held included a period as the Plasma Exchange Nurse, Clinical Practice Development, Ward Sister and later Matron. She remained settled in Oxfordshire for the rest of her life.

The practical ward based training she received never left her, and she was renowned for rolling her sleeves up as a Sister, and later Matron. Through hard work and determination Judy completed a BSc and Masters whilst working full time, which later enabled her to develop and support degree educated students and newly qualified nurses. She was the Vice President of the Radcliffe Guild of Nurses for several years and cared passionately about her nursing team, regularly reuniting the Radcliffe Infirmary ‘family’ at social events, the last one in October 2016. 

Judy worked her way up the nursing career ladder from staff nurse to Neuroscience Matron. Throughout her career, she always had a passion for supporting, developing and leading others. Judy would never accept sub-standard patient care on her wards and she achieved the highest patient care standards through educating and supporting staff. If any team member was struggling and needed additional support she would be there for them. Staff trusted Judy, as she role-modelled compassionate, person-centred care by demonstrating what was required. She had that exceptional skill of being able to call out poor practice whilst constructively teaching others to improve patient care across all our neurosciences wards.  Judy would never leave a shift without checking that every staff member was happy and knew what they were doing; a true role model and inspirational leader to others. Judy’s colleagues remember how caring she was: how she went out of her way to help them, whatever level they were; how she was always ready to’ put an apron on’, working on the ward to support staff who were struggling; how she was always offering words of encouragement to build staff confidence; and, most of all, her beautiful smile that conveyed the warmth she radiated to everyone who knew her. Judy positively shaped the careers of 100s of nursing students and staff in neurosciences who benefited from her wisdom and kindness.

From 2005 to 2009 Judith brought her talents to BANN as a committee member.  She was a much admired and respected colleague who brought her quiet thoughts and observations to many a discussion. She was extremely supportive to all the committee members with the work that needed to be done and joined in all the social events with zeal!

After retirement Judy continued to give of herself freely to others, working as a bereavement counsellor with Cruise in Oxford, where she was of course very highly thought of. She was indeed a fantastically supportive colleague and a great friend.

Rest in Peace Judy, you are truly unique and will never be forgotten.

October 2020

Anne Tallantire - Senior Nurse Neurosciences Oxford(nee Scott retired from full time 2002)

Carole Forde-Johnston - Neurosciences, Orthopaedics, Trauma, Specialist Surgery, Children’s and Neonates (NOTSSCaN) Divisional Recruitment & Retention Lead Oxford (previous BANN Committee member)

Anne Preece -Head Injury Clinical Nurse Specialist, Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist Neurosurgery Birmingham. BANN committee member (past President BANN)

The Society was founded in 1971 at Manchester Royal Infirmary as the British Society of Neurosurgical Nurses (BSNN). ┬áThe Society changed its name to the British Association of Neuroscience Nurses (BANN) in 1998. Our Equality & Diversity statement »