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Sylvia White (née Lane), 7/5/31-1/8/20, Obituary

Chairman Sue Rankin and the HHOGA committee were very saddened to learn in August that Association Vice-President Sylvia White (née Lane) had passed away at St Mary’s House.

Sylvia was a loyal, enthusiastic and long-standing member of the HHOGA committee being the London branch Chairman for many years and the Association Chairman in 2002-3.  She was known for organising a “bring & buy” sale at branch meetings in her efforts to raise money so that she could pay the postage to keep her branch members informed of future meetings.

Her funeral service had to observe Covid rules but the short service clearly painted an exact picture of the Sylvia we all knew and loved.  I had to smile when the gentleman leading the service said Sylvia had been very well looked after at St Mary’s House but she did not enjoy the bingo sessions!

Her father was a doctor, her mother an eye surgeon and Sylvia was born in the Isle of Man.  At the age of four the family moved to Bolsover near Chesterfield where her father became the local GP.  She went to Hunmanby Hall which she always said was the making of her.  She trained to be a nurse at the Middlesex Hospital and met her future husband John at church.  They had 3 daughters.  Sylvia’s elder sister, Dorothy Lane, was inspired by Sylvia’s enthusiasm for HH and went there to teach geography.  I remembers her being there in the late 50s and early 60s.

Sylvia’s daughter Christine kindly gave me permission to use the following eulogy which she read at the funeral service:

With only a short time allowed for this service, I cannot even try to cover the history of Mum’s 89 years, with its amusing anecdotes and significant happenings.  There would be enough of those for a book – along with many evocative photos.  So I want to give some glimpses into who Mum was.  A relative once suggested that Mum wrote her autobiography.  She thought, in the unlikely event this happened, she’d call it ‘It Was a Giggle’ – which in itself shows something of her sense of fun and her delight in the small things of life.

 Mum was called Sylvia from babyhood, as we can see from photos of her in those days, labelled ‘Sylvia’.  We don’t know why she was always referred to by her middle name and not her first name, Christine.  It didn’t much matter, though it did cause amusement sometimes when I still lived at home and she or I had a GP appointment, and the wrong set of medical notes was put ready for Christine White, as we both were.

Mum enjoyed writing poems about her observations of life.  One I like had the message that one shouldn’t sweep things under the carpet – literally or figuratively – or they would eventually trip one up.

She was good at drawing, and was also musical.  She took up trumpet lessons at the age of 60 in secret, and surprised us all by being able to play some tunes.  She was a longstanding member of the Townswomen’s Guild choir and the Hampton Methodist Church Young Wives, and faithful too in her life as a Christian.

She had a faithful friend herself in Teddy, whom she’d had since she was born, and who has been with her in these last few weeks.  When she was little, it was found that someone had scratched the initials of all the family members on a doorpost. The culprit was soon discovered – the last initial on the list was T. For Teddy! – who was certainly part of the family for young Sylvia.

Once Mum spent a few days working in a shop.  She told me that she hadn’t really enjoyed it because of being required to take money from customers. She would rather have given the goods away.  This shows how her chosen profession of nursing was ideal for her – she was able to give of herself where there was a need.

She also showed early interest in that type of thing, exchanging letters with brother John (at least one of them being at boarding school at that time) with subject matter covering things medical. John became a doctor.  Mum achieved excellent marks in the nursing examinations at Middlesex Hospital, and was known for being very observant when caring for patients.  She once noticed a patient’s nails weren’t looking normal, and she was praised by a consultant for picking up this symptom that others had missed.

As her girls became teenagers, Mum picked up nursing again after a long break, doing several assignments, including at the West Middlesex Hospital and St Mary’s Cottage Hospital.  As she adored babies and toddlers, she registered as a child minder, and looked after several babies with great thoroughness and enjoyment.

Going back now to her early nursing days, Mum told the following story.  She noticed that frequently when she went on duty in the ward, there was a sudden demand for bedpans.  Puzzled, she eventually asked one of the patients why this should be.  The answer “You’re the only one who warms them for us”.  They were of course the stainless steel type.

I don’t think Mum would have described herself in terms of being important or significant but I think the last story is an illustration of how Mum’s life demonstrates that it’s not always the supposedly big things that make the most difference.

The final prayer in the service depicted Sylvia so perfectly with the words “a life of faith and kindness”.  Sylvia was one of the kindest people I have ever known and she would always have a good word to say about everyone. The service ended appropriately with the HH school hymn “O thou who camest from above”

Margaret Jeffery HHOGA Secretary



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