Helena Kay

Helena Kay

12 June 1943
Liverpool, United Kingdom
22 April 2023
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Words by
Gideon Kay Son

It is my honour and privilege to be able to give a short hesped at my late mother’s funeral.

My Mum was born and bred in Liverpool. This city was (and is) in her genes and heart and she has never wanted to leave it. One of the best things about these past twelve very difficult months is that she has never had to.

She was born to Gertie Dansky and Joe Levy in June 1943, her grandparents having arrived in Liverpool in the late 1890s from Russia and Poland. She attended the Jewish Primary School in Hope Place and then Blackburn house for her secondary education. On leaving school, she gained a secretarial qualification from Liverpool College of Commerce.

an air stewardess for British European Airways

Her first job was for an accountants in Castle Street and then, in 1964 she became an air stewardess for British European Airways based at London Airport. She received accreditation for French, Hebrew and German and worked on several routes including the Middle East. One story that I only discovered recently was that on her first flight as a stewardess to Israel, as she was the accredited Ivrit speaker she was asked to do the announcements.

After she had done them and as she was walking down the aisle, she noticed everyone smiling at her and a native Israeli asked her why she had just announced that, “We will be flying at four and a half feet and flying time is going to be thirty seven thousand hours”?

After three years as an air stewardess she returned to Liverpool to be married and then worked at Liverpool University as a Professor’s secretary.

Despite being a full time single parent to me and my brother, she returned to education in 1998 gaining a BA Hons degree in American Studies and Psychology at Hope University.

a huge amount of voluntary work both for the Jewish and wider community

She did a huge amount of voluntary work both for the Jewish and wider community, at the Halewood Citizens Advice centre, and as school governor and chair of governors for two non-Jewish schools, as well as at the Resource centre in Harold House for nearly two years.

She became the JNF Liverpool office administrator and worked for over thirteen years for JNF, showing her lifelong devotion to Israel and Zionism. From her childhood in Greenbank, many years in Allerton and latterly in Childwall she was, until she was prevented by illness, a regular shul goer. She was the secretary of the Liverpool Jewish Historical Society, used to volunteer for the Jewish bookshop and was ardent about involvement in the Israel Committee when it was running.

For relaxation she used to love playing bridge, has always been devoted to the Times crossword, watching Tennis, especially Wimbledon, the Archers on Radio 4 (“Don’t phone me during the Archers Gideon”), classical concerts and the Roscoe lectures and more recently attendance at U3A groups. She was a lifelong cat lover and photos of her beloved Felix, Guppy and Zippy adorn her flat.

Her principal love was her family, as Grandma Helena, aka YaYa, her gorgeous six grandchildren, Gabriella, Tamara, Nushy, Joshua, Rafi and Oli and grandson-in-law Daniel. All held a very special place in her heart and she had a unique relationship with each of them that I believe they will never forget.

fiercely intelligent and curious, loving and warm, and incredibly strong and brave

She was blessed with two amazing and loving daughters-in-law Debs and Debra who were always caring and attentive, loving and compassionate, especially in the last few months.

My Mum was a complex person, fiercely intelligent and curious, loving and warm, and incredibly strong and brave (especially through her illness). It is hard to do justice to that complexity with a few words. One of her best friends sent us an email yesterday with the subject title, “Your courageous, intelligent and sometimes outspoken Mum” which is as good as any.

Someone else said, with an incredible amount of understatement, “She was quite the conversationalist”.

I know I speak for my brother when I say that it is almost impossible to imagine life without her. We can only hope that the values, and principles she has instilled in us and her grandchildren through her love (and the odd criticism) have given us the compass and map we will need to navigate the right path in times ahead.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.