Croydon says goodbye to 'big softie', who dedicated her life to the borough
PATRICIA Crouch was born in Croydon, lived here all her life and spent more than 25 years policing its streets.
Today (Friday) the borough says goodbye to someone who dedicated her life in its service.
Friends and colleagues will gather at Croydon Crematorium to remember the 69-year-old who died last Monday.
"She was a larger than life character, with a stern exterior but a big softie inside," her daughter Pauline told the Advertiser.
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Patricia intended to join the force when she left school but found the Metropolitan Police would not accept 16-year-olds.
Instead, she studied nursing at what was then Croydon Technical College for two years. In 1961, she successfully applied to continue her training at Farnborough Hospital in Bromley.
After qualifying, she worked in Croydon General Hospital's Herbert Brown wing between 1964 and 1965.
Patricia spent time as a receptionist for a dental surgeon before being employed by Croydon Council as a nurse responsible for five schools in Thornton Heath, but she still longed to fulfil her first ambition.
"From my office in Taberner House I would look out over the yard of Croydon Police Station," she wrote in her CV.
"I would watch the comings and goings and think 'I want to do that'."
In 1972 Patricia applied for a job with the Met, successfully passing the entrance exam, and a year later she was posted to Croydon, where she was given special responsibility for women, including missing people, shoplifters and young offenders.
In 1987 she moved to Kenley and was given her first 'home beat', covering South Croydon, Sanderstead and Purley.
There Patricia, who lived all her life in the same house in South Norwood, got to know the area, the people living there and its "villains".
In 1991 she returned to Croydon, where she worked until retiring in 1998. Patricia spent her retirement enjoying the good life with friends and visiting Pauline in Spain.
For the past 15 years she lived with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and, last November, developed complications following a bone marrow transplant and spent six weeks in the Royal Marsden cancer hospital in Chelsea.
On December 12, Patricia told her daughter she was expecting a very special visitor.
"When she said there was a royal on the way I thought the doctors might have to come and test her brain," laughed Pauline.
"Suddenly this person walks into the room and said: 'Good afternoon, Pat'. It was Prince William.
"He stayed and had a chat with us for at least ten minutes. He asked her what she used to do for a living and she told him about the police.
"Then she turned to him and said 'I wore your grandmother's initials on my hat for 26 years'. He burst out laughing and I nearly fell off my chair.
"When the Prince went to leave he told mum he bet Croydon was never the same without her policing it. She wouldn't stop talking about his visit for weeks."
Patricia had a heart attack last Monday and died peacefully in her sleep.
Her funeral is to be held at 3pm today (Friday) at Croydon Crematorium.
"Her funeral is going to be something else," said Pauline.
"There will be a horse and carriage and we will fly the police flag.
"She's going out in style, just as she would have wanted."