Marian Colet

Marian Colet

06 July 1933
Luton, United Kingdom
01 May 2022
Mill Hill, London
Words by
Tracey Lester and Gary Colet Marian's children

Marian was born in 1933, and with brother Michael, had a happy childhood growing up in Luton. We never really found out how the Wernickes came to move there from the East End, but like many aspiring Jewish families, I suppose it was a natural move northwards – they just seem to have missed out Edgware.

an expert wallpaper hanger

Mum worked as a window-dresser, when that was a vocation. It was at Sophie Schwarz’s shop in Wembley in 1953 that dad spotted mum in the window. He asked Sophie if she thought Mum would go out with him, and she persuaded him to ask her. Mum must have been very special as eighteen months after meeting Dad, he sold his beloved Jaguar SS1 drophead tourer to pay for an engagement ring.

Once married, they moved into the house on the Barnet Way in Mill Hill. They both worked hard to turn the small semi-detached house into an amazing home. Dad did most of the building work himself and Mum did much of the decorating. I have a recollection of Mum up a ladder with a paintbrush, hair in a paint splattered scarf. Amazingly she was also an expert wallpaper hanger. This is one of the many ways that Mum’s creative talents showed themselves. The flat has many of her wonderful paintings from those days.

Mum and Dad were founder members of Mill Hill Synagogue and of the ‘Young Marrieds’ group. The community was buzzing and they formed lots of close friendships there, some lasting to this day.

Marian was always the social animal, with a wide circle of friends and always entertaining at home. I am not sure where she got this talent from, as her mother, Betty, sadly was not. It seemed that everything Nana Betty cooked tasted like it had the consistency of stewed pullover.

This is where I have to tell you about the infamous ‘pie-gate’. Mum was a wonderful cook. One evening Mum and Dad were hosting one of their famous dinner parties. A delicious home-made pie was brought to the table. On cutting into it, the contents bore a distinct likeness to apple, rather than beef. There are variations on this, perhaps apocryphal, story including a meat pie being served for dessert. This event was unusual, as Mum’s culinary skills were legendary.

founder members of the Carmel Caravan Club

Family holidays were always spent in tents in France, Italy and Spain. We have wonderful memories as kids mucking about on beaches and in forests with the family friends we always went away with. Mum must have been delighted when Dad told Mum that in the future holidays would not be taken in tents. Perhaps Mum imagined cosy cottages or small beachfront hotels where she wouldn’t have to cook?

No, Mum and Dad were founder members of the Carmel Caravan Club, the worlds first, and I suspect only, Jewish Caravan Club. Ever the socialites, many lasting friendships were formed, pushing caravans out of muddy fields all over England. Somehow, Mum always came up trumps in creating amazing meals in the tiny galley kitchen of our Alpine Sprite caravan. This was the antidote to the charred sausages that Dad always seemed to barbecue.

Mum’s relationship with fashion continued when she joined dad in the Pastella ready-to-wear blouse business he set up. The highlight was manufacturing the Emanuelle ready to wear collection around the time of Diana Princess of Wales’s marriage. She also had a successful career in sales with other famous fashion brands.

In the 1990s Dad and Mum bought a plot of land in a beautiful spot adjacent to fields and woodland in Mill Hill village. There they designed and built the amazing Fieldend House, taking advantage of the unique rural aspect. Some of our fondest memories with Mum are the five grandchildren running amok in the huge garden, being chased by her and hiding in the Wendy house that Dad built for them in the enchanted woods.

a remarkable sixty nine years

On retirement, Mum and Dad lived for much of the year in Spain, where they made yet more new and wonderful friends. Fortunately they also spent time in their flat back in Mill Hill, so we still saw a lot of them. In 2014 they moved back permanently to the UK, but decided that there was still much of the world to see. It is wonderful that they were able to go on many cruises and breaks away, despite growing ill-health.

In later years, Mum’s dementia took its inevitable course. However she always had pride in her appearance, particularly her immaculate nails and hair. Her lovely carers Evita, Corina and of course the amazing and wonderful Helen were constantly at her side. We cannot thank them enough for the love and care they showed mum. Marian always had a sunny disposition and it was an absolute delight to see her face light-up when her great grandson Preston came round. Her second great grandson Felix’s arrival in April elicited more smiles and we are so lucky that she got to see him a few times. Two days after Marian passed away, her great granddaughter Halle was born. Visits by the ‘great granddogs’ Maisey and Lyra always cheered her up too.

Mum and Dad’s devotion to one another over a remarkable sixty nine years was obvious and boundless. Dad was Mum’s sole carer for many years and we know she adored the love he gave her. It was a blessing that Mum and Dad could stay together in their flat to the end.

So, how to remember Mum? A life lived to the absolute full, a creative, devoted wife, mum, grandmother and of course great-grandmother. We will miss her hugely, but remember so many good times together.