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Barbara Jan Kester
21st March 1932 - 29th October 2013
On Friday 21st March, 2014 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Barbara Jan Kester was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:-
We gather in St Bride's today to remember with great love and affection Barbara Kester, who loved Fleet Street and worked in this area: indeed she had ambitions to be a journalist herself, but she spent her life helping and caring for others.
We remember today a gracious and warm-hearted person, kind and generous, humble and reflective, who thought deeply about life, and cared deeply about those she loved. She had a quiet and private faith which sustained her, believing that she was loved by God, and that positive thinking about her life and those around her would carry her through the difficult times and bring her peace and contentment.
As we celebrate her life today we give thanks for the privilege of having known her, and we commend her to God, trusting that at the end of our brief day is the eternity of his love.
Blair & Miray
Thank you to everyone who is here today to pay tribute to our mother, Barbara. True to her birthday, the 21st March, and first day of Spring, Babs, as she was affectionately known, was a breath of fresh air, with a sparkling and sunny nature.
Our Mum had wanted to be a journalist since the days of her paper round, age 12.
She loved the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street, ‘her patch’ as she called it, which forever remained a special and happy place. She wrote to an editor of one the newspapers she delivered and, intrigued by the young girl’s letter, he enquired after her. However, on failing to inform her mother of the job application, he was subsequently chased away down the stairs! That certainly didn’t make the headlines! Mum didn’t dream to question of it, something she rather regretted, so it feels perfect to be here today at St. Bride’s Church, the cathedral of Fleet Street and celebrate her life in these beautiful surroundings and spiritual home of the media.
Older sister to Patricia, they lived on the Wild Street Estate, with their mother, Annie. Though times were hard, Babs was appreciative and dutiful, helping her mother from a young age. She often recounted the story when the shop keeper had to lean right over his counter to see her! Growing up by the bustling market dodging horses, carts and trams, in and around Covent Garden became an art and playing ‘chicken’, a favourite game with her friends! A horse once blocked her path and from that moment, her capacity to remain calm in a crisis came to the fore. A skill she maintained throughout life. “Never look a gift horse in the mouth, eh!”
The start of World War II meant evacuation for the young sisters, but following a harsh experience were brought back to London where, amidst the excitement of blackouts and whirring spitfires and bombers, they felt safer! Their mother worked as a post woman delivering the Royal Mail, so Barbara would warm up her mum’s slippers in the gas oven ready for when she came home and share a slice of jam and bread with her sister. With only modest food supplies from rationing, money scarce and rumbling pangs of hunger, Barbara was delighted to detect a box of dates on the top shelf. Balancing on a chair she reached them and greedily, scoffed the lot, reasoning that if she placed the stones back carefully, they would regrow by Christmas. Fortunately, her mother couldn’t but see the funny side of it!
At St Clement Danes School, her broad thinking aided her to escape the lengthy willow cane of Miss Pawley or the humiliation of the dunce’s cap, until the move to further education at St Martin’s Central School and then St Marylebone High. A fondness for the seaside emerged following her first holiday with the Endell Street Medical Mission. Fascinated as the train rolled alongside the swirling waves and roared through the red cliffs of Dawlish and Teignmouth, igniting a love of nature, the sky and sea.
At 14, Barbara, encouraged by her mother, relinquished her place at High School, to start work, such were the needs after the war. So began full time employment with W H Smith’s and Sons as a trainee secretary and studying shorthand at Pitman College. Mum soon found she was a natural on a keyboard and would have given Liberace a run for his money. Her slender fingers typing faster than most!
Later, raising 5 children single-handedly, she became expert at multi-tasking, taking on a plethora of work to make ends meet. Whether office cleaning or office secretarial work, Mum applied 100% professionalism, heart and soul, gaining her the admiration of many.
Working long hours, though never neglecting us, she provided a loving, cosy home and being a child at heart, gave us a wonderful, wonderful childhood that we will treasure, encouraging and welcoming other children of the flats, to join in our play.
Barbara was the most compassionate and generous person, and would give her last penny to a stranger. She was unique, warm and genuine. Youthful, funny, and strong. Never seeking to find fault, only a remedy. One night, hearing cries from a distressed resident from Bruce House, she ran out to help. Noticing he was carrying a teapot, without a question she whipped it off him, filled it to the brim and returned it with a steaming fresh brew and a couple of biscuits to boot! He surely must have thought she was an angel, which of course, she was!
Nadia & Amy
As a grandmother to 5, Nan took immense delight in our growth and development, encouraging us to think for ourselves and firing up our imaginations. It wasn’t unusual for her to become a schoolteacher/shop-assistant or howling red-indian even after typing all day in the office! Tagging along to her cleaning jobs was equally an adventure! She was always in the party mood and often, like the time she overcooked our pasta, give cause to celebrate! With a swiftness that belied her years, Nan leapt to Sainsbury’s and came back, armed with treats and takeaways. Then food laid out, music on, we danced our socks off - it was magic! Nan had the elegance of a swan and stamina of a thoroughbred!
She had a vast interest in the world in general, with passion for economics, current affairs, philosophy, art and literature. She could hold engaging conversation with people from all walks of life, young and old alike. Always reporting on the latest mod cons, new technologies, as well as music and fashion, she was more up to date than we grandchildren! A good listener too. You could always go to Nan for a chat. She had a special knack of instilling belief and confidence in oneself, enabling us to find our own solution and overcome any hurdles. As CEO of ‘The Family’, she would hear out any problem and, with open arms, make everything seem better! Her cool strategies and inspired thinking changed war to peace - whether it was resolving sibling squabbles, or helping a stranger in need - nothing fazed her! She had bags of empathy and compassion, cared for those suffering in this world and left us many good values to follow.
Nan was utterly heart-broken, when our little Jessica was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome. Thrown into a turbulent new world full of hospital emergencies, her favourite crime novels became replaced by medical dictionaries Embracing a new interest in genetics and medical research, utilizing her secretarial skills, she wrote to countless universities, doctors, researchers, often enclosing a donation towards their cause, no matter how little she had. Brushing aside her own health issues - she had been diagnosed with a breast malignancy - though she refused to believe it was true - such was her desire and will to think of others.
Nan would have gone on working forever but at almost 68 years old, was literally forced to take retirement from her full time typing job with the civil service, though still hanging on to a couple of cleaning jobs well into her 70’s! She supported her daughter, Miray in dealing with the daily challenges that Jessica faced and being there for Lara, when Jess had to regularly go into hospital.
Actioning her own philosophies, to make the most of every day, she provided a safe haven, adapting home-life to her granddaughter’s needs, yet never complaining ever. Even all the sleepless nights and taxing dramas couldn’t slow down her effervescent spirit of eternal youth! She brought sunshine as well as fits of giggles especially when swinging her hips to sounds of the Big Bopper! With Chantilly lace, her pretty face and gentle words of wisdom, Nan remained a tower of strength and support to her nearest and dearest, even when it became very clear she had needs of her own. Though growing weaker with the progression of illness, her phenomenal determination never faltered, still making it to the post office to collect her pension, pay the rent and buy a couple of lucky dips! Wow!
She loved us unconditionally, treated us all equally and was our best friend. Still full of good humour, she was resolute she needed to get another job or two! Facing her rapidly deteriorating health with exemplary dignity and grace, soldiering on, never giving in, until the final moment, when she found peace. Though dearly missed, Barbara, ever-loving sister, mother, mother-in law and nan will be always remembered and forever cherished in our hearts.
Francesco read Mark 10: 13-16
13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Eddie read Sea Fever by John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call, that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
Lara read Daffodils by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
Veni Creator Spiritus - Gregorian chant
Salve Regina - William Cornysh
Gloria - Vivaldi
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon Arr. Jones
Rule The World - Barlow Arr. Jones
Morning Has Broken
Lord Of All Hopefulness
OUR EVER-LOVING MUM AND NAN
Barbara Jan Kester
I thought about my smile and pass it on to you,
So you may take it with you and pass it on anew;
A single smile is precious and full of love and worth,
So pass my smile along to travel right around the Earth.