Tribute by Sue Cardus, LLL of Coventry Great Britain, submitted 1998.
Memories of a Special Friend
In January 1993 our Group (LLL of Coventry, England) held a wonderful get-together as the start of our 10th anniversary celebrations. One of the guests of honour was Jane Brown, who was an active Leader in our Group from 1984 until 1988 and a reserve Leader thereafter. Health problems forced Jane to give up her League work – she discovered she had breast cancer. We are so thankful that we were able to celebrate Jane’s involvement with our Group at that January party, because Jane lost her battle against the cancer and died at the beginning of July 1993.
It has been five years since Jane’s death, but her memory is still strong in La Leche League of Great Britain. I’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate Jane’s life.
Although a Leader for such a comparatively short time, Jane must have helped hundreds of women. She had the happy knack of being able to strike up conversations about breastfeeding with mothers anywhere – by the school gates, at the clinic, in the chemist, at the supermarket – and pass on valuable snippets of information in a very casual way. She also managed to persuade large numbers of them to come along to meetings (I wish this ability could have been bottled for use by lesser mortals!). We held several series of meetings at her house as well as numerous evaluation meetings and one memorable Christmas potluck lunch. We shared lots of information, love and laughter in Jane’s tiny front room. Jane used to work hard to make the house tidy, clean and cosy for meetings but would confess with a cheerful smile that she had never quite got round to Hoovering the stairs! I used to love that because I too never quite got round to Hoovering my stairs and those bits on the stair carpet were a bond between us.
As well as her work with the Group, Jane took on the job of Leaflet Manager for LLLGB and helped to produce some great leaflets. She also wrote a number of articles for parenting magazines, touching yet more women’s lives.
On a more personal level Jane was my saviour many a time. I only had to pick up the phone, to get help with a counselling call or a fractious toddler, or whatever. She lifted my spirits every time – and she made me laugh!
Another Leader and friend, Barbara Sheppard, also has very personal memories of Jane. She wrote this shortly after Jane’s death:
“We went back a long way, Jane and I – to Coventry College of Education. She was the willowy, gorgeous one, with Greta Garbo eyes. I’ve got a photo of her above my desk – all kohl pencil and long hair. Jane had a penchant for ‘proper lace-up clogs’ off Salford market. These and her long skirts made her look like a Pelham Puppet!”
“We shared houses and went out into the world together. Jane was great to share with – she even did the washing up when it wasn’t her turn! She was into good nutrition even then. When most of us were living on toast and coffee, Jane always cooked herself a ‘proper meal.’ She was quite bad with asthma and she said she needed ‘a bit of weft to keep her going,’ and downed enough mashed potatoes to sink a ship! Jane was generally calm and optimistic, which was great on the morning when our lease ran out and we had nowhere to live. These traits stood her in good stead for coping with the traumas of her illness.
“We had some great adventures but lost touch when I moved, only to be drawn back together through our mutual interests in La Leche League. Mothering through breastfeeding was another ‘rite of passage’ that we shared. I worked closely with Jane in PL/PR for LLLGB. She wrote eloquently and persuasively about breastfeeding -she could have gone far with a journalistic career, but chose instead to promote LLL through leaflets and magazine articles.
“The emphasis of Jane’s life was on caring for others. Outside of her family she worked with old and learning disabled people. Things that were important to Jane were her family and friends, her work and her Christian faith. La Leche League embodied much of what she believed in and was given a special mention at her funeral. Jane planned her own service and it was a very moving experience for me to attend it to say farewell to a special friend. I’ll really miss her.”