Brian Duckworth, managing director of Severn Trent Water, pays tribute to Jo Joster, former director of customer service for Severn Trent

Jo Foster, who died last month aged 51, was best known in the Midlands as director of customer service for Severn Trent Water.

In the mid-1990s, she chaired the businesswomen's group, Network Midlands, was Shropshire Businesswoman of the Year in 1996 and served on the council of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

Jo was born in Gloucester, one of five children of Eric and Edna Cox. Her father was in the insurance industry and the family enjoyed spells in York-shire and Shropshire before settling in Shirley. As a pupil at Tudor Grange School, Jo was gifted academically. However, she surprised her teach-ers when she left school, choosing an accountancy course rather than university. She then worked for West Midlands Gas before joining Severn Trent Water in 1976.

Joining the water business as an auditor, she quickly progressed into working in the customer accounting part of the business where she became a very successful district manager in the company's East Shropshire District based in Telford, the only woman to reach the position. Jo then became Severn Trent's first woman director when she was promoted to the role of director of customer service in 1996.

Her roles outside the company were many and varied. She chaired Networks Midlands, an organisation which brought established and aspiring businesswomen together. Unfortunately, many of these activities were curtailed when she discovered she had cancer in 1998.

Her illness forced her early retirement from Severn Trent in 1999, although she continued to have ambitions for other business ventures. With her partner John Foster she ran two hotels. The first one was The Old Rectory Hotel at Ipsley near Redditch and later they owned The Tredethy House Hotel at Hellandbridge in Cornwall.

In 2004, Jo and John moved back to Shropshire, first to Shrewsbury and in the last few months to Welshpool.

Earlier this year Jo joined the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust as a non-executive director.

Jo Foster lived a full life and coped well with her illness. Few of her family and friends fully understood the extent of her problems. Indeed, she would rather discuss the progress of Aston Villa than her own health!

However, during the summer her health deteriorated further and she spent a large part of her final three months in hospital, where she was a model patient. She died in the Priory Hospital in Edgbaston.

Jo was much loved and well respected throughout her life. She was ambitious and her achievements were many. Her last ambition was to marry her partner of the last seven years, John Foster. They were married on September 19, 2006, the day before she died.

A service of celebration and thanksgiving for her life was held on October 3 in Shrewsbury Abbey.