About Jane Cole who passed away on 4th May 2020

Jane had lived in Wivenhoe since 1969 and achieved much during her life here

Peter Hill

Founding Chairman of FOSM - Jane Cole in 2004
Photo by Peter Hill
Jane Cole - in 1975
Jane Cole at the unveiling of Don Hirst's memorial bench at the Wivenhoe Allotments in 2015
Photo by Peter Hill
Tom Roberts, Peter Kennedy and Jane Cole in 2007 representing the editorial team of Wivenhoe News receiving the Merit Award at the RCCE Awards evening.
One of FOSM’s tea towels. This one designed by Gill Strudwick and Jane Cole.
Peter Hill

Jane Elizabeth Cole passed away peacefully at St Helena Hospice on May 4, 2020, aged 80 years. She had lived in Wivenhoe for 50 years and worked for the University of Essex for a long time until retirement in 1987 due to her ill-health. She suffered badly from rheumatoid arthritis particularly in the last 30 years of her life.

She asked me in 2017 if I would give a Eulogy for her when her time came. I was very honoured and flattered to be asked of course; I also realized that I needed some more details about her early life. I went round to see her and we enjoyed a ‘Michael Parkinson type interview’ reminiscing about the 40 years I have known her, and the organisations we have been in together, as well as exploring her time before Wivenhoe.

She did say to me that she is not at all ambitious. I guess in all the time I have known her, she hasn’t appeared ambitious but has always been a driven person, willing to spend hours working on something in which she believed. The word I would use to describe her overall is Determined.

About the Life and Achievements of Jane Cole

Jane came to live in Wivenhoe in 1969, living initially at 6 Park Road before later buying the bungalow at 47 Park Road, her home for the next 44 years.  She came to Wivenhoe because she had got herself a secretarial job at the University of Essex, where she became Secretary to the Finance Officer, Eric Wade.  She retired from the University because of ill-health in 1987.

Jane’s early days

She was born in Radlett, in Hertfordshire. She has a brother, John, who was 4 years older than her. Jane was really quite religious, particularly in her younger days. For example, even at the very young age of 10, she and a friend would go off to church by themselves.   She described her childhood to me as a happy one but at age 11 she found herself going to a private boarding school for girls on the north Norfolk coast, not far from Cromer, called Runton Hill School.

It was not a large school, with only just over 100 pupils and it gave her a good education.  She got on well, taking and passing lots of O Levels but somehow failed to get any A levels. However, the headmistress did make her Head Girl so she must have done something right. To be made Head Girl, was something of which she was very proud.

From Runton Hill School, in 1958, she enrolled herself in the Pitman’s College in Russell Square in London where she learned shorthand and achieved a speed 120 words per minute.  From there, she went straight out to the world of work; she chose to do temporary work in administrative and secretarial roles, and her shorthand skill certainly helped her in this process.

Jane thrived on hard work

She seemed to thrive on short term roles working mainly in London for a variety of firms which included:

– working for Vivien Leigh’s mother who had a beauty salon in Bond Street and where she met the famous actress Vivien Leigh.

– she thoroughly enjoyed working for David Tron Antiques in Kings Road Chelsea

– and for fashion designer and Biba-founder, Barbara Hulanicki, but before she really became famous; one of Jane’s tasks was to send out the first Daily Mirror dress!

Around 1964, she was sharing a flat in Emperor’s Gate, in Kensington, with two other girls.  On the floor above them lived John Lennon of Beatles fame. There were always girls hanging about outside the front door of their block of flats. I don’t think Jane was very impressed by their behaviour as it made getting into their flat very difficult, but she was amused when Jane’s flatmates gave the fans their cigarette ends saying they were John Lennon’s.

Jane was not afraid of hard work and got jobs fairly easily. This included 5 or 6 stints at the 50-roomed Grant Arms Hotel, in Spey, in Scotland; these days it is a prestigious hotel, but at that time it was privately run. She would be happy running the reception and doing other administrative tasks.

Diagnosed in 1969 with rheumatoid arthritis but worked at the University and studied for a Degree

She also worked in Marbella, in Spain, for a few months as a waitress; this was when she was diagnosed with the start of rheumatoid arthritis and she came back to the UK, and settled in Wivenhoe. This was 1969.

When this disease began to get worse in 1976, her Mother moved to Wivenhoe. It was then that they bought the bungalow at 47 Park Road. Sadly her Mother died not long after moving there, in 1977.

Jane studied for a Batchelor of Arts degree at the Open University in 1975 which she completed in 1985 after taking a break when her Mother died. I think she later regretted not going on to get her Masters. Jane began working for a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Suffolk College in Ipswich although she found the writing of long essays alone in her bungalow very difficult and so didn’t complete the Degree.

She also tried doing a Reader’s Course but did not complete that either because she felt that she had nothing to say! She was perhaps a better listener and would determine the way forward based on what she heard.

Active in St Mary’s Church for 30 years

Soon after coming to Wivenhoe, she got involved in life at St Mary’s and became one of several active figures in the Church for nearly 30 years until 2001 when she stopped going to Church.

She will be remembered particularly for having established the organisation Friends of St Mary’s in 1993; or FOSM as we affectionately known it, as an organisation to raise money for Church repairs. This organisation allowed people to support St Mary’s without necessarily being a member of it.  In its first 25 years, it has raised a substantial amount of money (approx £50,000) through various events and the sales of Wivenhoe Designs. I think we all have a tea-towel or two, a Wivenhoe mug or a calendar. She was very proud of FOSM and particularly of these Wivenhoe Designs.

Of course, it was FOSM which began publishing Wivenhoe News in 1995, which is now firmly established as Wivenhoe’s quarterly news magazine that regularly sells 700 copies each quarter and is run by an editorial board independent of FOSM. Jane was held in considerable respect by that Board and was mentioned on its back cover, until her death, in the list of named people, as Editor Emeritus.

I really got to know Jane much better in 1987 when she roped me into being a performer in the Pageant, the story of St Mary’s Church from 1330 to 1987.  Jane persuaded 100 people to be involved in that production in various capacities. It was based on Olive Whaley’s little book, the Day Before Yesterday which describes Wivenhoe life and critical role played by St Mary’s Church through the ages. Having got this idea whilst still working at the University, a year later, through Jane’s determination and hard work, it eventually happened with 5 performances in June 1987.

Active in other organisations too

I could go on about Jane’s achievement and involvement in community life here in Wivenhoe. She had been on the Carnival Committee in its early days, and its Secretary for a while; Secretary to Wivenhoe Players, Treasurer to the Wivenhoe Society; Secretary and Chairman of the Wivenhoe Branch of ARC – Arthritis Research Council which I remember used to hold some wonderful fund-raising lunches including many at our home of Toad Hall; She helped Anne Horner to establish Open Gardens in 1987 by helping to write the programme. Open Gardens of course is still an important feature in the Wivenhoe Social calendar. And the other event which is a firm fixture here is Art on the Railings for which she was one of the founders in 1983.

She was Secretary of St Mary’s PCC for several years, member of the Deanery Synod, and used to organise the distribution of 1,000 Christmas Cards each year.

Along with others from Wivenhoe, she became a member of the Sea of Faith, a network of people who explore their religious faith in different ways. She said to me:  “I like religion as an art form, like being involved in a musical work or a painting or in the mystery of life but not as a vehicle for belief or faith”. She stopped going to church in 2001. She said: “I had found my niche in the church in the late 1970s because there was so much to do!”

We will remember Jane

We will remember Jane for always being cheerful despite the difficulties that rheumatoid arthritis caused her. She had both knees replaced and both hips in these last 20 years that this crippling disease took its toll on her.  Sadly she never wrote the book which she intended to do in retirement; she had a great love of books, and her house was full of them.

It was in 2001 that Don Hirst, her next door neighbour for many years, sadly lost his wife Rosalind and he found it very difficult to be on his own.  He had a pulmonary embolism that year and needed looking after, so he moved in with Jane. His cat too quickly made its home at No. 47. Jane had 13 very happy years with Don.

Jane said to me:  “I am very grateful to all the friends I have had in Wivenhoe, those who sat on FOSM committees, those who took over FOSM, Wivenhoe News and the Designs. I came to settle down here and truly did.  I am also very grateful to Don’s family who have helped me when needed since Don died”

Jane, we were very fond of you too. We are all grateful for the contribution you made to Wivenhoe; you have left a great legacy and we thank you for it. We will remember you.

Peter Hill

Note:  Due to present circumstances a private cremation will take place at Weeley Crematorium on 10th June 2020. A Memorial Service will be held at St Mary’s Church, Wivenhoe, at a later date.

Notes about Jane’s Organisations:

For more about FOSMclick here

For more about the History of Wivenhoe Newsclick here and about wining an Awardclick here

For more about the founding of Open Gardens in 1983 click here

For more about the Wivenhoe Pageant in 1987 – click here

This page was added on 24/05/2020.

Comments about this page

  • Jane was a talented lady with a love of Wivenhoe. She was interested in so many aspects of our community. I enjoyed working with her, working on the designs and helping her in many different ways before we moved away.

    By Gill Strudwick (26/05/2020)
  • Jane also studied and gained a Certificate in British Archaeology at the University of Essex from 2001-2. She was an excellent student and always gained the highest marks for her work.

    By Pat Marsden (25/05/2020)

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