It is with great sadness that we announce that Joan Laurance, founder of the Family Holiday Association charity, has died at the age of 98.

Without Joan, and her husband Patrick, there would be no Family Holiday Association. Since 1975, her compassion, sense of public spirit and unstoppable determination have enabled thousands of families to spend quality time together away from challenging circumstances.

Family Holiday Association founder Joan Laurance dies
Joan Laurance, Founder of The Family Holiday Association (FHA).

Alison Rice, the longstanding trustee and former Chair of the Family Holiday Association, commented:

“I have no doubt that everyone who met Joan thought she was a remarkable woman. I certainly did. Her selflessness and steadfast resolve will continue to be an inspiration to us all as we continue her legacy.

“Rather than complain about the lack of breaks available to struggling families, Joan and her husband Patrick turned their outrage into solid action and it’s thanks to them both that we can be proud of how many families we’ve helped since 1975.

“The thoughts of everyone at the charity are with Joan’s family at this difficult time. We offer them our deepest sympathies.”

Joan and her husband Patrick, who died in 2008, launched the Family Holiday Association as a national charity in 1975. Several years earlier they had been struggling to cope with the loss of a daughter who died aged just three months. At this point, they also had a three-year-old daughter and were trying to get back on their feet after Patrick had lost his job. They hardly had enough money to last the week, let alone go towards a family break. When they were then given the opportunity of a short break in Southend-on-Sea, it turned out to be an experience they would cherish forever.

Both Joan and Patrick lost their fathers at a young age, so they knew only too well the importance of holding on to happy memories of family holidays. With some help from friends, neighbours and anyone else they could persuade to join their cause, the Family Holiday Association was born. And now, four decades later, the charity has helped nearly 50,000 struggling families to access a much-needed day trip or a few nights away from home. Joan said she had thought that by now there would not still be families too poor to afford a holiday. Sadly that is not the case.

Joan was also an honorary life member of the Red Cross, for which she worked for over 30 years, being closely involved with the running of the trolley service at the Royal Free Hospital. She served for 7 years on Hampstead Community Health Council and was also a Samaritan. Joan was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1986.

Joan spent her final years cared for by her daughter, Pauline with help from her daughter, Pamela, at home in North London. She is survived by her daughters.