My Grandma passed away peacefully in her sleep on August 9th at the age of 94. I had the great honour of writing this eulogy, which was read at her funeral today.
Doris Irene Hay – also known as Mum, Auntie Doris, Auntie Doll, Grandma, Great-Grandma and Granny – was born in the Mother’s Hospital in Clapton on 19th July 1922 to Charles and Florence Webber.
The family lived in Dagenham in the early years before moving to Leyton. Doris and her two younger sisters, Marjory and Winifred, shared a room and used to chat long into the night – something which will not surprise anyone who knew them.
As a schoolgirl Doris enjoyed cookery, dressmaking and swimming, and was very proud of having jumped off the top diving board at Cathall Road swimming baths. She went to Girls Brigade and learned how to tie knots and do first aid.
Doris and her beloved Ted started courting when she was 16. The story goes that Doris was struggling along with a “heavy” case after a meeting of their church’s dramatic society, and being the gentleman that he was, Ted went to help her out, took the case and walked her home. The case turned out to be empty, and the rest was history.
They fell in love quickly and Ted wrote adoringly about her in his 1939 diary, describing her as “the sweetest girl in the world” and recording blissful evenings spent together in the park watching the sunset. They married in 1943 when she was 20 and he was 23.
Their flat was bombed during the war and the only thing left standing was a cupboard in which they put a few salvaged possessions which had been wedding presents, intending to collect them later. These were all stolen apart from a lilac glass plate, which was always kept in pride of place in a dresser in the living room.
Their son Frank came along in 1944 followed closely by Lynne in 1949 – and not so closely by Jenny in 1967, which was a big surprise for everyone!
All three siblings have fond memories of going “uptown” with their mum to see the sights, visiting unusual places like the Silver Vaults, enjoying – and sometimes not enjoying – lunchtime concerts and feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
Always a Londoner at heart even after moving next door to Lynne and Philip in Newcastle with Ted in 2005, Doris always loved listening to LBC on the radio and hearing the traffic reports from around her old haunts – particularly the Green Man roundabout in Leytonstone, which seemed to feature prominently.
Doris enjoyed visiting new places and spent many happy holidays with family members, often memorably squeezed into their car “Tilly”. For many years she and Ted went on a September break with her youngest sister Win and her husband Frank, where they each had their holiday jobs and routines – Frank was treasurer, Ted driver and entertainer, Doris navigator and researcher of places to visit, and Win organised the food. A particular highlight was always their morning treasure hunt for sweets.
Doris was renowned as a great cook and many family members associate particular foods with her. These include, for various reasons: lasagne; hedgehog birthday cakes with Matchmaker sticks for spines; ham and eggs; mashed potato; Christmas pudding; fish and chips; blackberries; bacon and tomato omelettes; chocolate steamed pudding with vanilla sauce; jellied eels; lychees; shepherd’s pie; cockles; brie; sugared almonds – and even a chicken casserole accidentally thickened with custard powder, which was, unusually but perhaps not surprisingly, delicious.
It’s also not surprising to find Doris at the heart of so many family memories. She helped care for her own mother who had multiple sclerosis, and was a warm, motherly figure to her nieces and nephew, and the many young people at the weekly church youth group she and Ted hosted in the 1960s.
She dearly loved her grandchildren Rebecca, Thomas, Hannah, Sam, Daniel and Gabriel, and great-grandchildren Féirín, Oisín, Alex and Christopher.
Supportive and caring, Doris faithfully attended concerts, encouraged musical instrument practice – requesting numerous songs and often singing along enthusiastically – provided wise counsel and read endless stories before her eyesight grew too poor. She also amazed the younger members of the family by appearing to float magically up the stairs on her stair lift.
Doris was a voracious reader – Ted had to log which books he brought home from the library to avoid repetition – and in recent years she enjoyed listening to audiobooks on her special player from the RNIB. She even had an iPad for her 90th birthday and mastered it well enough to be able to do what she wanted to do, including challenging the family to competitive games of Wordfeud. She was a big fan of Murder She Wrote, Songs of Praise, Strictly Come Dancing, CSI and Carols from Kings, and woe betide anyone who was insufficiently up-to-date on current affairs – even from her hospital bed she was grilling people on the outcome of the Brexit referendum vote. And as a big fan of watching sports of all kinds, she’ll be sorry to have missed the Olympics.
While she may have frequently berated Ted for “breathing too loudly” and rolled her eyes at the detailed Christmas to do lists that he started in September, their 69-year marriage has been an inspiration to all. Before Ted died in 2013 he told her that he was sure he would see her again. It is a great comfort to think of them reunited now – along with her two sisters and Ted’s five siblings – laughing that memorable laugh of hers. Thank you for everything, Doris. Rest in peace.