A DEVOTED grandmother who spent more than 80 years at the heart of village life has died.

Friends and family packed the pews of North Weald Methodist Church last week for the funeral of community stalwart Ruby White, 86.

Ruby was born in Thornwood in 1926 and attended St John's School, Epping. She was a member of Epping Youth Centre in her teens and a regular worshipper at St Andrew's Church, North Weald.

After leaving school, she took up a role as a typesetter on the West Essex Gazette in Epping and later became an operator at the town's telephone exchange.

She married Eric in St Andrew's in 1955 and the couple moved to 1 High Road, where they brought up sons Andrew and Martin.

After her marriage, Mrs White joined North Weald Methodist Church and become one of its most devoted members.

She belonged to the mothers' union and, when it closed down, helped form the deanery members' group that took its place.

She also helped found North Weald Preservation Society, still going strong 40 years later, and only stood down as its president last year.

Fellow founder David Lodge, 79, served alongside Mrs White as village recorder, sending regular reports to Essex Record Office.

He said: "She was very keen on local events. She was in everything and she went home and wrote up all the events.

"She gave a very good vote of thanks at open meetings. She was always very ready to be called upon.

"She had an extremely full-time life. People like that are never replaced quickly."

Mrs White also had two granddaughters, Amber and Jasmine.

Her friend, former Epping and Harlow MP and London MEP Stan Newens, 82, said: "Although devoted to her home and family, Ruby was active in the community.

"For many years she took part in amateur dramatics, performing in plays and pantomimes.

"North Weald Methodist Church was packed for her funeral, reflecting the deep respect in which she was held in the locality.

"She will be missed for the active role she played in the community over many years."