Sunday, 3 May 2009

Farewell Jessie - a grand woman

It is a sombre start to my blog today as I had some sad news. Jessie Moston (right) died peacefully in her sleep on Friday night aged 99 and 335 days old.

So instead of everyone planning for her birthday party, there are now plans for a funeral.

Jessie was part of my extended family. I've known her all my life. Her Mum was married to my Great Uncle, so although she was no blood relative, she had been part of the family ever since she was 14.

Jessie never married. She was an independent woman. Very intelligent and the kind of woman who did not want to be pigeon-holed. She was a Head Teacher in her younger days, she was one of the first women to hold the seat of a Councillor on the city council in Stoke, she was Chair of the Arts Committee and was one of the people instrumental in bringing about the building of the Hanley Museum and Art Gallery which holds one of the best ceramic collections in the world.

Jessie was also an accomplished musician, linguist, raconteur, artist and traveller. She was well travelled and was not afraid to seek out new adventures. She rode camels in Egypt, busked in the street with her recorder (at the age of 95) and defied the constraints of her generation by "living in sin" with Stan, the man she loved until he died.

I have fond memories of Jessie. She used to come to ours with her sister Gladys and when Jessie and my Dad locked horns about politics, Jessie always had the upper hand. Jessie was a Labour supporter and Dad a Conservative.

Jessie and Stan went to America in 1991 to attend my brother's wedding and was such a sprightly 80 something year old, she didn't look her age.

She was a true lady. When Gladys died, she gave me £1,000 which went towards my wedding fund which she said, she wanted to do as she didn't need Gladys' money. The rest, she gave away to charity.

I last saw Jessie in 2008 when I went to visit her at the care home she went to near Longton when she could no longer look after herself. I was shocked to see how frail and little she was and even though her memory was not the best, every-so-often, she'd have a flashback and she remembered that I used to sing and work for a radio station and that she'd been invited to attend my wedding, but was not well enough to travel.

Jessie had a wonderful life, so I'm not going to be sad about what we've lost, but celebrate about what she had. She worked hard all her life and she did things other women of her generation could only have dreamed about.

She was a pioneer in local government, education and culture. She gave so much of her spare time in her younger days to help others and instead of taking a camera with her on her travels, she'd take a sketch book and bring home with her a unique record of her round the world adventures.

When God made Jessie, he built one to last. It's just such a pity she couldn't have lasted a little bit longer so see her 100th birthday, but she made it into her 100th year, which is no mean feat.

Also, when you think of what Jessie has seen in her lifetime, it's quite daunting. Advances in Science and Technology and supersonic travel. The first man on the moon, Two World Wars, the first woman PM in the UK and the first ever Black President of the USA. The bringing down of the Berlin Wall, the death of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. She's lived through 5 reigning Monarchs, been around for at least 17 different Prime Ministers and the one that is most important to Jessie - she was born at a time when women did not have the right to vote, which when you think about how a majority of Jessie's life was centred around politics, was unthinkable!

If Jessie's lifespan were to have been calculated as a whole day - she was born at midnight and died at 23.59 - so near and yet so far.

RIP Jessie. You will be missed.

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