James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
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Cancer, laryngectomy & death

Ruth Wynn Owen at service Ruth Wynn Owen with dog In the late 1960’s Ruth had suffered from a recurrent 'sore throat'. It was a long time before throat cancer was diagnosed. The year before the making of the TV film about witchcraft she had radiation treatment and in 1972 she had a laryngectomy. Her previous training helped her develop an oesophageal voice. The actor Jack Hawkins, who had also had a laryngectomy, visited her soon after her operation. He inspired and encouraged her and she did the same for others, subsequently talking to pre- and post-operative patients. In 1976 she read the lesson at the service for the Speech Handicapped, when this photo (right) was taken. She was a founder member of the Jack Hawkins and Popinjay Clubs and a member of the Steering Committee that in the mid 1970’s established the structure of the National Association of Laryngectomee Clubs.

Ruth was treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital, to which she had to return on many occasions and at St Georges, Tooting. Though barely able to speak she appeared on actor Brian Blessed’s ‘This is Your Life’; he was one of the youngsters in Yorkshire she had trained and encouraged to become an actor. Visiting her in hospital a few days before her death, he gave her a stone he had brought back from Mount Everest and put a scarf that had been blessed by the Dalai Lama around her neck.

Ian died in December 1990 and Ruth died in the Royal Marsden Hospital on 6 May 1992 not directly from the cancer but principally from severe narrowing of the arteries which had put a strain on her heart over a long period of time. Another of ‘her boys’, the actor Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard in ‘Star Trek’, etc.) flew in from Los Angeles too late to visit her but he spoke eloquently at her Quaker funeral. In the crematorium chapel he and his daughter read the lament "Fear no more the heat o’ the sun" from Shakespeare’s 'Cymbeline'.

She is survived by her daughters, by the descendants of one of her twins and by her long-term partner who provided great support to Ruth throughout her protracted final illness. He has provided me with considerable information and material for this account for which I am most grateful.