Tributes to former head girl of Wakefield Girl’s High School Elizabeth Whitaker- the first woman to become High Sheriff of West Yorkshire

Elizabeth Whitaker
Elizabeth Whitaker

An inspirational woman who became the first female High Sheriff of West Yorkshire has died aged 90.

Elizabeth Whitaker died at her daughter’s home on Saturday, February 1.

She was born on March 29 1923, in Sandal and attended Wakefield Girls’ High School where she was head girl.

During her time at the school she became known by the nickname ‘Pretty Grim’ due to her family surname, Grimshaw.

She maintained a lifelong relationship with the school and was a governor for 16 years as well as at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School,

Pat Langham, former headteacher of WGHS, said: “Elizabeth was an amazing, inspiring woman.

“Her intelligence was combined with a wonderfully wicked sense of humour and a kindness and compassion for others.”

After leaving school, she trained as a physiotherapist and later worked at both Pinderfields Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary.

She had a son and daughter, John and Philippa, with her first husband Arthur Brian Robinson.

He died in 1956 but she later met and married William Whitaker, a consultant cardiologist at the LGI, in 1961.

Throughout her life Mrs Whitaker held many respected roles in public life.

She was a city magistrate from 1969 until 1983 including a spell as both deputy chairman of the bench and chairman of the juvenile bench.

She was also the secretary of the management committee at St John’s Home Training School, a governor of Wakefield Art Fund, chairman of the board of visitors at Wakefield Prison and governor of the Remedial Gymnastics School at Pinderfields Hospital.

In 1983 she was awarded an OBE for her work and also her dedication to many charities that she supported.

And in the same year she was also named the High Sheriff of West Yorkshire.

Her daughter, Philippa Nagel, said: “She was a very generous, outgoing person who loved meeting people. She was involved with a lot of different charities and enjoyed all the different work that she did.

“When she recieved the OBE she was very surprised. I remember at the time she said she didn’t know what she had done to deserve it.”

Mrs Whitaker had lived with her daughter in Aberdeen for the past 18 months as her health deteriorated.

Her funeral took place at St John’s Church in Wakefield yesterday.

She leaves behind a son, a daughter and two stepsons, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.