A GREAT-GRANDMOTHER who may have been the oldest West Ham fan in the country has died aged 92.
Betty Enid Thomas, of St Mary’s Avenue in Wanstead, was the daughter of WJ Cearns, chairman of West Ham United from 1935 to 1950 and self-made millionaire who built a fortune from his construction empire.
Mrs Thomas and her seven siblings were brought up in a mansion called St Mary’s Croft in St Mary’s Avenue, Wanstead, which has since been converted in to a modern home, and they would visit the terraces regularly as children to sit alongside the fans and cheer on The Hammers.
Mrs Thomas remained a committed fan for the rest of her life, and visited Upton Park every fortnight until her death last week, juggling raising three children with her commitment to the team.
Mrs Thomas’ son Michael Thomas, 56, lives in Harts Grove, Woodford Green.
He said: “My mother had all kinds of stories about going to see the team play.
“She said she went to see a match in the ‘60s where the referee was accidentally knocked out and Bobby Moore leant down, picked up the referee’s whistle and blew it to stop the game.
“She said the game had changed a lot. It is all about the money now. She remembered Bobby Moore going and having a chat and cup of tea with fans in a cafe after the game.”
Mrs Thomas’ father WJ Cearns, dubbed the ‘cockney millionaire’ by the press, was responsible for the first underground car park in the country and also funded the construction of a stadium in Upton Park as well as a swimming pool in Wanstead High School, which has since been demolished.
Mr Thomas said: “He did not want to leave London during the blitz so built an underground dressing room and office in the garden. One bomb apparently landed right above it but did not explode.”
"He was apparently the first person to own a TV in Wanstead. When he first bought it he saw the first goal of a West Ham game at the match, heard about their second goal on the radio on the way home, and was delighted to see the third goal at home on television."
“My mother lived in Wanstead her entire life. She was quite a character and a lot of shopkeepers on the High Street were shocked to hear the news.
“One had a story about her being told off for opening a Bacardi Breezer in the supermarket before an appointment at the hairdressers”