Jo O’Farrell, co-founder of The Living Tree, died peacefully in her sleep on the Fortuneswell Ward of Dorset County Hospital on July 5. She was aged 68.

Jo, who lived in Bridport, was recognised in this year’s Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for her voluntary work and has been described as a ‘rare spirit who touched other people’s lives by The Living Tree’s Jo Millar.

“I can honestly say, that over the six years that I have been fortunate enough to know Jo, I have never come across anyone who voluntarily did so much for others. She has been the driving force behind the success of The Living Tree. Her beautiful, compassionate nature and amazing networking skills have allowed The Living Tree to flourish from its initial small membership to the large organisation it is today.

“Jo had become increasingly frail in the past few weeks and her amazing spirit finally succumbed to the effects of her Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Ms Millar was first introduced to Jo six years ago by a mutual friend whilst both undergoing cancer treatment.

“At the time, we were both aware of the lack of a local holistic group in West Dorset to support anyone affected by any cancer,” she said. “One that addressed how to live well in spite of a cancer diagnosis. As soon as we started chatting, I was aware of this sense that I had found a kindred spirit, and so a close friendship was born which led to the formation of The Living Tree.

“Jo had the ability to remember everyone. What made her so particularly special was the fact that she did all of this out of a genuine concern for others, at a time when she continued to be ill herself, undergoing numerous hospital stays and trials of treatment. She never complained about her own health, instead finding time to be available to others.”

Jo assisted vulnerable people through the Pathways to Care scheme, which supports elderly and needy people in Bridport, and organised the town’s hugely-successful MusicAthon, raising funds for the Richard Ely Trust for Young Musicians and other beneficiaries.

In November, she was awarded the ‘Beacon of Hope’ award by the Lymphoma Association and received an MBE for her voluntary work last month.

“Jo was a rare spirit who touched other people’s lives, leaving them in a better place,” said Ms Millar. “This was formally recognised when she received her MBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace only last month. Sadly, by then, she was already beginning to struggle. When we heard of her passing last week we were hugely saddened – I think many of us thought she was invincible.”

Living Tree member Roz Copson said: “Jo was a wonderful person. The community will never be quite the same without her.”

Jo leaves behind her husband, Vince, daughters Elizabeth and Caitlin and five grandchildren. Her family is arranging to publish a second volume of poetry, ‘At Low Tide’, which she completed just before she died.

Jo’s family has arranged a private funeral at the Quaker House later this month. They will release details of a public memorial service, to take place after summer, in due course.

Source: The Bridport News and Jo Millar