Angela: Tzivia bat Shalom HaCohen. We really have to pinch ourselves to believe we are here today to say our final goodbye.
Born in 1951, Angela started life in Brim Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, adored by our late parents Hilda and Sidney, of blessed memory. She was a sunny, happy child in an age where babies were left safely outside their houses in prams, although the arrival of my brother Richard three years later, severely learning disabled, brought inevitable strain to the family.
making her signature suede and velvet-fringed jackets for bands like The Who and the Small Faces
Angela attended Highgate Primary School after my parents moved to Highgate the year following my birth, and later Queen’s College on Harley Street, so while in those days we were a suburban family, Angela was already the sophisticated West End girl. Relocating, I hesitate to say running away, to California in 1968, she returned if not wiser, then certainly street-wiser, and, after enrolling in Hornsey College of Art, so began the flowering of her many talents. First, as a clothes-maker to the music industry, making her signature suede and velvet-fringed jackets for bands like The Who and the Small Faces, and then in the late 1970s, always ahead of fashion, opening her own shop, Lily, in then unfashionable Notting Hill, the first boutique of its kind, a one-off original like Angela herself.
Like all of us, she had her demons, but she fought hard to overcome them, and she succeeded. Diagnosed with MS while in rehab in 1986, she dealt with her illness by ignoring it as best she could and God was kind in granting her a long and almost full remission. Meanwhile, a more thoughtful but no less vivacious Angela emerged. She ran her silver and engraving business, making many friends along the way, developed a love of opera, adding to her already prodigious music knowledge, which now ran the gamut from classical to the Great American Songbook to the Rolling Stones and chazanut. She took up gardening. She also took up bridge, and it was at the bridge table that she met James in 1997. “He is the one”, she told me soon after they met, and so he proved to be.
But through many adventures, her religion and love of Yiddishkeit was always at the fore. An enthusiastic member of Western Marble Arch synagogue, she was elected to the board, and she inaugurated The Archers, a quarterly social gathering for older members of the community.
a first-class mind, a brilliant memory, a quick wit and a mordant sense of humour
Other of Angela’s attributes? She had a first-class mind, a brilliant memory, a quick wit and a mordant sense of humour. She was a lover of general knowledge and a collector of arcane facts, a prodigious quizzer on her local pub-quiz circuit, and was at one point top of the prestigious national ‘Learning League’ table. At another pub, she and James regularly sang; she had a good voice. She adored people, most people, rekindling old friendships and making new connections and was an early embracer of Facebook. She was also a talented artist, not only painting, but glass-making and mosaics, and she was a fast and prodigious reader, devouring print.
More important than any of this however, she was a wonderful and true partner to James, a devoted sister to me and my brother Richard, visiting, sending cards, birthday presents and Chanukah presents, everything always timed to arrive on the right day, because another of her virtues was a great respect for punctuality. She was a loving sister-in-law and friend to Tara and a very special aunt to her nephews, our twin sons Jonathan and Jacob, whom she adored, and of whom she was so proud, convinced they would be, as she termed it, ‘world-beaters’, and who were fortunate enough to spend some quality time with their beloved ‘Auntie’ in her final weeks.
She was also a much-loved visitor to our home in White Plains, New York, twice a year, for Pesach and Succoth, her trademark gift of an arrangement of white flowers for our Yom Tov table arriving like clockwork from our local florist on the afternoon of the eve of each chag.
I want to pay tribute at this time to the wonderful surgeons, doctors, nurses and carers who tried so hard to give Angela a little more time and then made her last weeks as comfortable as possible; to the many friends and relatives who have checked in daily and visited; to Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, a true friend, who twice when he was recently in London, on the last occasion when he was only here for a day, still found time to make the trek down to Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham to see Angela, a true exemplar of the selfless act of bikur cholim; to Rabbi Ari Cohen; and to our own Rabbi Daniel, another visitor, so supportive and so genuinely caring and for conducting the funeral today only hours after arriving back in London after a long overnight flight. But most of all, to James, Angela’s partner of twenty five years, who brought her so much happiness, steadfast in his love, unstinting in his care, a beacon of strength through her long stay in hospital and then tending to her in her final weeks at home, unwavering in his commitment. James, all our hearts go out to you today.
gracious nature and sparkling personality
In a recent text to me, Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld summed it up: “Angela should be so proud of what she has done for our community over the years, giving so much pleasure to older people with those wonderful parties which put a smile on peoples’ faces. No one else bothered or cared and if she hadn’t done it, it wouldn’t have happened. She did it all on her own and raised the money all on her own and it will be her lasting legacy. She will never be forgotten for all that she did, with her gracious nature and sparkling personality.”
And sparkle she did. And even occasionally crackle. Angela was no saint, but she became, as recognised in an award from Western Marble Arch Synagogue, an Ayshet Chayil, a woman of valour. “Who’d have ever imagined it?” she said to me at the time. It was the greatest, most meaningful honour she said she had ever received.
Thank God she is at peace at last after her brave battle. Zichrona livracha. May her very special memory be always for a blessing.