Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Lesley Tilley RIP

For those who might be interested, this is the eulogy my sister and I prepared for Mum's funeral:

Lesley Joan Tilley 1928-2021

Lesley Base was born in Birmingham on 18th March 1928. Apart from a brief time, when she was evacuated during the Second World War to North Wales, she lived her whole life in the city.

She became adept at giving travel directions using landmarks that had been demolished, saying things such as ‘Turn left where the Bristol Cinema used to be. You know. Opposite where they knocked down that church.’

Her parents, Dennis and Janet, were lovely people although her father was somewhat strict and austere. They had to cope with several miscarriages and so Lesley was a much loved only child. She was devoted to her parents and looked after them with care in their twilight years.

She had an aptitude for art and design. Steve recalls finding his art homework much improved by her hand overnight, once.

She attended Margaret Street Art College in Birmingham where she trained as a dress designer. Some of her original drawings survive but this career was short lived. One left-over from this career was a dressmaker’s dummy which lived in an attic room for many years and scared occasional visitors if the light was gloomy.

She loved fashion and clothes and was always very smartly turned out.

She met Jim Tilley after the war when he was still in the RAF.

She was engaged to someone else at the time. But a mutual male friend brought Jim along to meet Lesley one evening. They married at Edgbaston Old Church in 1950 - the marriage lasted 49 years until his death in 1999.

The relationship introduced her to Dad’s sister Brenda, a kindly woman with what today would be described as learning difficulties. She lived with the family until Jim’s death. It also began her 50 year relationship with Jim’s family home, 107 Oakfield Road - a huge Victorian house maintained, just about. She therefore found herself looking after part, then all, of this rambling place. The existence of rooms over the garages and bells in each room in the main house suggested that the building had been used to a team of staff. She developed as a cook and did a Cordon Bleu cookery course. Jim was a very traditional eater so pasta and curry never got a look in. But meals were always great.

It was an exciting playground for Steve and Jacquie to be born into in the 1950s and Lesley admitted that she loved being a mother.

She was one of the few people to have hated the day when the kids went back to school at the end of the summer. Steve and Jacquie’s school friends speak of her kindness and welcome.

She loved having young people around her and Steve and Jacquie were encouraged to invite friends round and they were always greeted enthusiastically. Jacquie remembers endless school holidays spent with friends running around in the attic rooms and playing French cricket in the garden. Steve's football skills spoiled many fine flowers and shrubs.

As the children grew up and became independent she gave herself to entertaining and charity work, hosting many fund raisers for various causes. She was particularly active raising awareness and funds for Kidney Research; at the time a not very fashionable cause.

She was a keen supporter of both children’s chosen careers, vocally and emotionally supporting Jacquie when she went away to Art College and Steve when he was ordained.

When grandchildren came on the scene in the 1980s she threw herself into being a grandma. Ben and Jon recall how excited she always was to see them. Spending holidays with grandma and grandpa involved many days out and, of course, that house to explore.

She was part of the fellowship at St Stephen’s, Selly Park and much in demand as a baby-sitter, not least by the clergy.

She also enjoyed occasional travels - especially a trip to see her cousin Doreen in Los Angeles.

Jim died after a stroke and she was devastated. It took sometime to persuade her to downsize but she made a new home in Kelton Court. She made friends and joined the community here at St George’s for a few years. She was happy here until it became clear that her increasing confusion was the onset of dementia.

She was first cared for in her house by regular care visitors and fine neighbours. Eventually she needed residential care and Neville Williams have looked after her for the last few years, patiently dealing with a client who insisted on being known as Mrs Tilley, not Lesley.

Grateful thanks to all, paid and unpaid, who have rallied round. After having her two COVID jabs she tested positive although remained symptomless. She seemed somewhat indestructible but then on June 13th she fell asleep in her chair for the last time. Let’s face it; it’s how we’d all choose to go.

Steve Tilley and Jacquie Clinton
June 2021

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