THE oldest woman in Cumbria, who turned down a trial for the 1924 Olympics, has died ‘peacefully’ at her home in Arnside.
Jessie Elizabeth Bancroft, known to friends and family as Betty, died in the early hours of Friday, just eight days before her 108th birthday, after beating a brain tumour and surviving two major operations as a pensioner.
The former PE teacher, who for 39 years held a record for the fastest 100-yard sprint, was the oldest woman in the county when she died.
“She was a remarkable woman,” said son, Richard Bancroft, also of Arnside.
“I’m very proud of her because she was an exceptional individual.”
Betty, originally from Staffordshire, was one of six sisters — of whom one is still alive — who have notched up 595 years between them.
The former resident of both Crook and Levens was invited to try out for the 1924 Olympics in Paris, but turned it down after hearing a group of men betting on her — saying it was ‘unladylike’ for a woman to be ‘bet on like an animal’.
She trained as a teacher and married husband St John in 1942.
Son Richard was born in 1943.
In 1974, following St John’s death, she moved to Levens to be closer to two of her sisters who were living in Silverdale.
“She would do anything for anyone,” continued Richard.
“She looked after her sisters when they had times of trouble and she would always put herself out. She was an extremely kind person.”
Five years later she fell ill and a tangerine-sized tumour was successfully removed from her brain.
She was told it would return within 15 years — but it never did.
Throughout her life she enjoyed art, amateur dramatics, spending time with her family and ‘views’.
In recent years she enjoyed travelling with Richard and his wife, Janis, and for her 90th birthday the group travelled to Majorca, where she walked almost 30km over three days.
Sadly, her health declined following two hip operations last September, and she moved from the Five Oaks residential home in Crook to the Westmorland Court nursing home in Arnside.
“Everyone who knew her has a fond memory of her,” added Richard.
“She always had to see what was around the corner or on the other side. Well, now she knows.”
Her funeral will be held at Lancaster Crematorium tomorrow at 1.15pm.