A STALWART of Taunton's church community with “a heart of gold” has died aged 87.

Joyce Chant, who was chorister at St John's Church in Staplegrove for more than 70 years, died in hospital due to heart and kidney disease.

Dozens of people packed into the church on Friday (July 11) to pay their respects to the mother-of-three, who grew up yards away in Edgeborough Cottage at Tanyard.

Daughter Alison Webb, who flew over from Australia for the service, said: “I'm not sure how to honour such a loving, caring and compassionate woman who was so kind and considerate and such a really nice person.

“All I can say is she was a very special lady with a heart of gold and devoted to her choir and church.”

People weren't the only guests at the funeral service as Joyce's car Betsy, which belonged to late husband Ernie, was also present.

Alison said: “The vicar allowed her little car to be at the church for the service and also at the reception tea.

“Mum didn't learn to drive until her mid-sixties when dad died and Betsy was a familiar sight around town.”

So highly thought of within church circles, Joyce was presented with a bible and prayer book in 1944 to mark 500 continuous attendances at the church.

As well as her links with the church, Joyce was also a founding member of the Mothers' Union and regularly played bowls for Taunton Bowling Club in Vivary Park.

In her spare time, Joyce also kept up to date with what was going on in her favourite weekly newspaper - the County Gazette - and was a keen contributor to Staplegrove Local Historical Society.

Alison added: “Mum as she was a loyal avid reader of the Gazette every week having it delivered with her papers.

“She was so pleased when her birthday was recognised in the announcements section last November with a photo.”

Joyce leaves behind children Alison, Stuart and Wendy and five grandchildren.