We were devastated to hear the passing of Anne Howard a few weeks ago. Anne had been a part of canoeing since the seventies, leading to becoming Team Leader for the Great British squad for the 2018 and 2019 Championships. She will be remembered for her dedication to both Great British and Club teams, her patience and her friendly face when the low points hit.
The following words from her husband Pete sum up her passion for helping others:
Her first involvement with paddling was with the Stratford on Avon Kayak Club (SOAK) back in the late seventies. That was where I first met her when I joined the club. Although Anne was not a keen paddler she always had to be involved in the club and it’s organisation in some way. She always wanted to feel she was doing something useful for people, helping out wherever she could, whether it was organising social events or as treasurer of the club for some time. It’s difficult for me to lay out exactly what she did, and when, initially with SOAK and then with Cherwell when we set the club up with the focus on polo. Anne was just always there, helping out and being involved. In 1987 I started the Paddle Sport business and Anne asked if she could help me by doing the accounts or something, as always wanting to try and help. I didn’t know then that she had other ideas for me and of course the rest is history. Since we became an item, and later married in 1996, she was always by my side, helping out and wanting to be a part of my paddling activities. She gave up a good job to come and work in the business with me and was always there and still helping with club activities the whole time as well. Everywhere that the SOAK and later Cherwell teams went, she was there supporting and helping, and some of our happiest times were spent holidaying in Ieper every year, as always, with life revolving naturally around our love of canoe polo. When I became involved with the GB Squads in 2013, of course she wanted to help me and was a source of great support for the work when I became the U21 Women’s coach in 2014. Anne was very disappointed that she couldn’t come with me to the Worlds in Thury Harcourt in 2014 but it was absolutely clear when I returned that she was having none of that in future. Beth had joined the squad and Anne volunteered to start attending weekends to support the girls and me, and eventually that led to a more formal role for her. She helped Amanda Thompson with the squads accounting, eventually taking that role over at the same time as becoming the official support for the Women’s squads. She attended every training and tournament weekend and all the Championships from Essen in 2015 onwards to Portugal in 2019. When I left the coaching team after 2016 I honestly expected that Anne would leave the squads with me but she had become so involved and enthusiastic about being a part of it that she determined to carry on, helping not just the Women’s Squads but also as Team Leader in Portugal and Canada. She was so happy in those last years, at last not doing something to support me, but to be doing something so worthwhile for herself and knowing that she was helping so many people. Her whole life was spent in helping and supporting other people, it’s just what she always wanted to do!
Alison, a member of the GB Senior Women’s squad, sums up her support for the players:
Anne was the mother of the squad. Whenever there was a low moment or a problem, Anne had the words and knowledge to help make things better. Anne organised everyone at training weekends, handing out meal tickets and making sure we all had beds. She organised transport and accommodation for Championships. She went over and above in everything she did to make sure all of the squads had everything they needed for success. For the women’s team in 2019 we felt like Anne was our 9th player. Anne joined us in all the highs and lows of the season, from sleeping in a tent in freezing conditions in Charleroi to being the first to congratulate us on winning gold in Portugal.
Anne’s contribution to the squads is incalculable. She will be missed by all of us who got to know her over the years. Anne, squads will simply not be the same without your kind words and actions. Your memory will live on in our hearts and in the medals we won along the way.
These thoughts are echoed by Bethan, also a GB Women’s player:
Anne was so much more than an official support, she was family. I love the description of her as Mother for us too! She went above and beyond in everything she did, nothing was too much trouble. She always saw the best in everyone and had (and often needed) the patience of a saint! She was always there for the lows, the frustration and the disappointment, which made sharing the highs with her even sweeter. I could not imagine squads without her; she was, and will always be, a key player in my memories of GB polo.
In memory of Anne, please consider donating to the British Heart Foundation, a charity which meant a huge amount to her https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/for-anne-howard