A Tribute To Doris
Doris Steers 8th May 1923 - 1st August 2013
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we are also joined by family in Australia and across of the UK.
Yet when Doris was born, on Tuesday May 8th 1923, radio broadcasting from the BBC was barely six months old, with many saying it would be a five minute wonder.
How the world has changed in the last 90 years.
Doris, the second of five children born to Nellie Philpot, was born in Shoreditch, within the sound of Bow Bells, so she was a genuine Cockney.
She had an elder brother, Bill, younger sisters Franie and Cyn and a younger brother John – who is with us here today.
Even as a youngster Doris knew her own mind, Cyn tells me Doris tried, unsuccessfully, to boss her around when they were growing up, but Doris also showed her caring side as she looked out for her kid sister the many times she was in trouble with their Dad - usually for coming home too late.
At 17 she acquired a Singer treadle sewing machine, which now takes pride of place in our hall at home.
Inside one of the draws Ann found a card detailing sewing lessons Doris had attended.
The lessons were obviously beneficial as she would, in later years, make dresses for the young Ann.
Talking of lessons, when Syd was going through her papers, he found a provisional driving licence in her name, dated 1943.
This was a surprise, as no one in the family knew she had ever driven but as Syd said, “that explains why she always told me what to do when we went out in the car.”
After the war she worked in the enquiry office at Kings Cross station and she used to walk past the WH Smith stall at Platform 10, catching the eye of the young lad working there. He started chatting her up and the rest, as they say, is history.
As was often the case in those austere, post-war years, they began married life in a couple of rented rooms at a cost of 12/6 a week – that’s about 62p for the benefit of the youngsters here.
Just over a year later two became three as Stan was born.
In 1954 a daughter, Joan, was born but she sadly passed away at the age of just two months.
In 1957 the family joined the exodus from London to the Home Counties and settled in Bletchley, initially in St Johns Road and, in 1958, Ann completed the family.
It was a good 5 mile walk and when they arrived they wanted somewhere to relax and chill.
So they asked a bemused local where the beach was.
It was then they learned the “Sands” in Woburn Sands referred to the local brickworks and not the seaside, which was a further 70 miles down the road. The phrase geographically challenged springs to mind.
They moved from St John’s Road to St Georges Road, just over 50 years ago.
Although she had several part-time jobs, Doris’s main job was looking after the family.
I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this, indeed he’ll probably agree, but Stan was - how shall I put it – a lively lad.
Indeed, by all accounts, he made Denis The Menace seem like a choirboy.
Ann tells me she often remembers Doris chasing her and Stan around the garden with a stick after they had been cheeky to her.
It’s said as we grow older we turn into our parents and earlier I recounted how Doris used to look out for Cyn when she stayed out too late, warning her that her father was on the warpath.
Doris became the parent on the warpath, usually involving Stan coming home late after one or two lemonades more than advisable. Giving her firstborn grief when all he probably wanted to do was sleep.
Stan was unable to come over to visit Doris before she passed away but he sent her a very moving message and he has allowed me to quote from today.
He said, “Throughout the years there have been many ups and downs but there was always love and compassion.
“I am and always will be grateful to you for bringing me into this world and for looking after me.”
Lovely words which made his Mum (and the rest of us) cry when we heard them.
After completing his apprenticeship at Wolverton Works, Stan went to sea working on the ocean liners.
Although she missed him, Stan going away must have been a relief, as she now had one less football kit to wash, although with Syd still refereeing she did not escape entirely.
Now, not many of you will know this, but a few years ago Doris was named in the News Of The World.
Before you get too excited, expecting some salacious revelation, it was because she had won a competition.
She enjoyed doing her puzzles and entering competitions and she did quite well - but never quite hitting the jackpot.
Meanwhile Stan was all at sea and on a cruise in Australia he met and fell in love with Debbie and settled for a life Down Under.
Eventually grandchildren came along and although they were the other side of the world, Doris and Syd still managed to make several visits and delighted in the company of their growing family.
In February 2003 a fresh faced teenager arrived at Heathrow airport, their youngest Grandson Luke, looking to follow his father to sea and planning to study here in the UK.
He initially stayed with his grandparents and they seemed to revel in his company, even though he did end up breaking their car.
In a letter sent to Doris a couple of weeks ago Luke wrote, “I just wanted to say a big thank you for all of your help and support, especially over the last 10 years.
“I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you and Grandpa having me stay with you after being on your own for so long.
“One thing I know for certain is that I couldn’t have achieved what I have without you, Grandpa and family …. even though I did break your car. Sorry!!!
“It has been such a wonderful experience being able to spend time with you both. I always look back on it with happiness and a smile.”
As well as finding a career over here Luke also found love and I know Doris enjoyed watching the romance with Jane blossom and she took to Jane as if she were her own daughter.
Luke and Jane’s wedding, four years ago today, saw two more of her Grandchildren, Scott and Kendall, in the UK and that delighted her tremendously.
She also met and welcomed another future member of the family as Scott showed off his then fiancé, now wife, Cheryl.
I cannot recall seeing Doris more relaxed and happy than she was with Kendall, his cheeky charm winning her over, hook, line and sinker.
The look of sheer, almost childlike, joy when Kenny turned up with a bubble blower was a sight to behold.
In 2011 the “full set” of visiting Grandchildren was complete as her eldest, Tim, visited the UK.
At that time Doris’s health was slowly failing and the COPD was beginning to take its toll.
She went out less and less and became more and more reliant on Syd.
What can we say about Syd and the support he gave her?
In 1949 he said he would be there for her “in sickness and in health” a vow he maintained until the end.
He did more for his wife than many husbands would and as a family we admire, respect and thank him for all he did for Doris, he could not have done any more.
In May we celebrated Doris’s 90th birthday and although she was becoming increasingly frail we had a small party for her and as a birthday surprise both Cyn and John joined the celebrations.
Although they chatted on the phone most weeks, it had been a few years since Doris had last seen Cyn but both were boosted by seeing one another that day ……… Cyn’s visit was the icing on the 90th birthday cake.
Doris became weaker and was spending more time in bed but for Syd’s 90th birthday in June she made the effort to come downstairs to help celebrate his birthday.
It took a supreme effort on her part but it was something she really wanted to do for him.
Just a fortnight later she was admitted to hospital.
Although physically frail there was nothing wrong with her mentally and that must have been frustrating for her – a perfect mind but a failing body.
Until the very end she still knew what she wanted though and if anyone – be it family, doctors or nurses – did anything she did not like, we were very soon and very firmly, put in our places – none of us escaped.
Doris always took pride in her appearance.
Even a couple of hours before she passed away, when she was so weak she was finding it an effort to talk, she still managed to ask Ann to rub some cream into her face and her hands.
Doris lived a long, full and fulfilling life, living to a good age, most of it, thankfully, fit and active.
All of us here know Doris in many different ways Friend, Sister, Sister-in-Law, Aunt, Mother-in-Law, Grandmother, Mother.
However she had one role which transcended all of those – wife.
Doris and Syd were a formidable couple, an example of where the sum of the two was far in excess of the two individuals alone – they made one another.
We all know they weren’t a luvvey dovey couple but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an intense love between them.
Over the past few weeks in particular, I’ve been privileged to witness some very tender, emotional, loving moments between them.
When she was in hospital Doris was always asking how Syd was and was worried how he was coping.
The nurses commented how much she perked up when he was with her – even though, most days, they ended up disagreeing about something or another.
Doris’s passing has left a hole in all our lives, in some cases a gaping chasm.
That hole or chasm will never be completely filled but Doris wouldn’t want us moping around, she would want us to remember the good times and smile.
Doris may no longer be with us in body but we all have our memories, she will always be in our hearts and minds and we will all love her forever