Popular theatre actress Judy Box '˜lived for music and her friends'

A well known theatre actress and opera singer who '˜filled her life with friends and music' has died.

Judy Box was a huge part of the local drama and opera scene until right up to her death earlier this month
Judy Box was a huge part of the local drama and opera scene until right up to her death earlier this month

Judy Box was a professional actress who auditioned for Noel Coward, before becoming a well established member of the amateur dramatic and operatic societies across Bognor and Chichester.

She taught English and Drama at the William Fletcher School, now The Regis, in Bognor, and was house mother at Larch, an organisation for the mentally handicapped.

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Judy, who lived in Aldwick, died on March 21 at the age of 86, and paying tribute, her husband and daughter said she was always singing, even three weeks before her death in hospital.

Judy (left of picture) performing with Joan Carol and June Dandridge in Ladies in Retirement, Worthing, in 1950

“She couldn’t live without being surrounded by people, the more people the better,” her daughter Roly Aknin said.

“She had so, so many friends, all of them would say that she was someone who brought people together and she used to have the most fabulous parties at her home, they were legendary.

“There were all sorts of people there, people playing the piano, reading poetry, my mother and others singing and performing, growing up with it all was wonderful.”

Born Judith Erica Morton Bachelar on August 6, 1929 in Wallington, London, she moved down to the Bognor area in her mid teens.

Playing Aladdin in Christmas pantomime at the Esplanade Theatre, Bognor

Her professional career began when she was in her 20s and at its peak she toured with the prestigious Repertory Theatre across Leeds and Manchester.

She performed alongside Graham Poultney and Christopher Fry as Widow Wyn in the production One Thing More in the ’50s.

During that decade, she performed at the Q Theatre in Richmond alongside Jack Leon, and was part of the Harry Hanson Ltd Repertory Company, together with Lesley Sands, which toured Leeds.

She married boxing champion and RAF member Leo Dowling in the 50s and the pair had a daughter, Roly, and son, Barney Dowling, together, before they divorced in the early 1970s.

Judy in one of her many performances. She loved theatre as much as opera

She married David Box in 1975 and together they helped to found Amnesty International Chichester and Bognor branch.

Paying tribute, David said: “We were married for 40 years and despite the difference in age, it was I who often struggled to keep up with her.

“Marriage is not just about love, you have to be friends with each other and we were the greatest of friends.”

Judy loved singing as much as acting, and performed solo concerts at Harewood House in Leeds, Sheffield Park in Eastbourne, and Fairfields Hall in Croydon, equally at ease with a repertoire of operetta and operatics.

From the 1960s to ’90s she also gave poetry readings for the Tate Gallery Summer Season, at the Mid Sussex Festival, Arundel Festival, Chichester Cathedral and Bradford Music Festival.

She was an active member of both the Arundel and Sussex Players, the Bognor Regis Drama Club, the Bognor Regis Operatic and Dramatic Society, and the Bognor Regis Music Club on Sudley Road.

She worked as a house mother at Larch, a home for the mentally handicapped and was a very active member of the Friends of Ashley House, a home for the physically disabled in Bognor.

As well as teaching at the William Fletcher School, she supplied at other schools locally, and offered popular private lessons in singing and drama from her home.

Judy leaves behind husband David, son Barney, daughter Roly, and grandchildren Leo, Rueben and Jack.

Her funeral is this Friday, April 1, 3.30pm at Chichester Crematorium, all welcome.

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