Mrs Patricia Graham MBE, one of Exmouth’s most respected citizens, died peacefully on Saturday evening (October 8) with her family at her bedside in Fernihurst Nursing Home. She was 81. 

Following retirement from her teaching career, Pat worked tirelessly for decades to improve and promote Exmouth through serving on Exmouth Town Council, East Devon District Council, Exmouth in Bloom and Exmouth Twinning Association. The voluntary work ended only when the effects of advancing Parkinson’s became too severe to continue. 

Pat was born in West Devon in 1941 and after attending local schools, she came to Exmouth’s Rolle College in 1966 to enrol on a teacher-training course. It was here in Exmouth that she met her husband to be, Keith Graham. She began teaching in 1969 with a two and a half year stint at Otterton Primary School, later working in the Exmouth and Exeter area while her four children were small, and finally retiring as head teacher at Clyst Honiton Primary School. 

By then the couple’s four children, David, Michael, Deborah and Matthew had families and careers of their own, but fate dealt a cruel blow when Deb was paralysed diving in a swimming pool. The people of Exmouth supported the family during this most difficult of times and Pat’s gratitude drove her desire to give something back with public service for the town. 

She served on Exmouth Town Council for 20 years from its inauguration in 1997, and additionally on East Devon District Council for ten years until ill health forced her to resign from both in 2017.  

Throughout her time as a Liberal Democrat councillor Pat advocated co-operation rather than confrontation between opposing political factions, urging members to work together for the common cause of improving Exmouth for the people. 

Pat was twice chosen as Exmouth Mayor by fellow town councillors. Embarking on her second term, Pat told councillors: ”When I came to Exmouth 35 years ago to study at Rolle College, I never for one moment supposed that I would find myself in this position. But we never know what life has in store for us and even the most carefully made plans have a habit of changing completely.  

“I have been privileged to spend the greater part of my life in Exmouth. Exmouth is a beautiful town and I am proud to be part of it. Furthermore the people of Exmouth are among the most kind, caring and supportive people you could wish to meet. Perhaps this year will afford me the opportunity to repay some of the kindness shown to my family in the past.” 

Stepping down from local government in 2017 because of her illlness, she described her 20 years as a councillor as ‘brilliant’ and said she would be sorry to leave. 

Shortly after her retirement from council work, East Devon District Council conferred the title of honorary alderwoman on Pat for being ‘unfailingly supportive’ of Exmouth.  

Throughout her lengthy public service as a councillor Pat pursued a more grass-roots style of town improvement - planting flowers, often in the first hours of daylight. She was a founder member and long-time chair of Exmouth in Bloom.  

She received an MBE in 2015 in recognition of her work with Exmouth in Bloom, and said winning national recognition for the group was among her proudest achievements.  

More recently Exmouth in Bloom members showed their appreciation by electing her President and naming the town’s latest blossom boat ‘Pat Graham MBE’. Pat attended a special naming ceremony for the flower-filled boat by the train station, saying she felt greatly honoured and hoped the boat would always be “filled with flowers and bring joy to everyone arriving into the town”.

Exmouth in Bloom commented at the time: “This project has taken months of work, renovating the boat and negotiating with Devon County Council, so Exmouth in Bloom would like to thank everyone who made it possible to honour this wonderful lady in this way.”

Serving the people of Exmouth was always Pat’s driving force, whether as a councillor, planting flowers or fostering friendly relations through visits to and by our French and German twin towns.  

She always felt honoured to represent Exmouth, saying years later, “I hope that I have made a difference to someone along the way.” 

Patricia's funeral will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth on Friday, October 28 at 11am.