Colin Grainger

Farewell to a woman with a heart of gold

It is desperately sad journey to Oxford for me today to say goodbye to a woman who had been a close friend for over 35 years.

It was Jan Martin’s appointment as assistant secretary of the Newham Community Health Council that caused our paths to cross.

Here was a job in which she made a real difference to people’s lives, helping to improve health services with secretary Gwen Farmer, then Davey, and chairman Cllr Marjorie Helps, rooting out injustice and putting things right by challenging those in charge of our health service.

The CHC and the Newham Recorder joined forces in many health campaigns. In those days, as now, the NHS is a passion of mine and we worked on many campaigns together and the CHC’s achievement’s are massive in the borough’s 50-year history. They were on a par with those who campaigned for Newham Hospital.

It was there I began to find out more about Janet as a person and the things she loved. Her family and  friends, Cat Stevens, The Pet Shop Boys, David Essex, David Essex…and of course, David Essex.  I think she must have been his number one fan, she has been so so many concerts and met him. He’s a lovely man who helped with many of our Christmas Toy Campaigns at the Recorder, giving help to Community Links bid to make life special for needy youngsters. Jan supported the appeal every single year. And she loved tennis,  Rafael Nadal, especially.

Along with my young children, then aged four and seven, I helped her moved into her home in Harold Road, Plaistow. As the years went by we found another joint interest – tenpin bowling. She joined my tenpin bowling league team, then playing at the now defunct GX Superbowl in Beckton. Happy times indeed.

Jan’s next role, in the probation service, gave her another chance to make a difference, until once again, re-organisation spoilt a decent public service.

Now in Stratford, Jan’s house became a “changing room” for me and my best mate Willie and my son James for our annual pilgrimage to the Theatre Royal, Stratford, panto. It always seemed to clash with a Tottenham home game, and Jan provided us with a space for a quick change on quite a few years.

It was there she suddenly found herself changing direction again and becoming a landlord. That was another life-changing experience for her and one that gave her many challenges.

But the bedrock of her life, was always her friends and family.


She loved them so much and back home in Witney a few years later the group ICE became a special part of her life.

It is almost impossible to believe that it was only three years ago that Jan and her closest from the ICE Centre and her family had that special time at the London Olympics in Stratford. I was in the midst of my busiest time as Editor of the Recorder. We were the centre of the universe during that period and I was happy to help make that trip happen. Everyone involved loved it and Jan loved being back on her “home” turf.

Her Facebook posts told the story of the joy of that time.

Even more incredible is that it is only just over a year that she was once again enjoying her pilgrimage to Stratford and then again over the river to the tennis at the O2.

A close friend of ours once told us to live every day as if it is your last.

13 months on from Jan’s last visit to London we said farewell to her today. It seems barely believable.

What she has had to go through in the last year, battling against a brain tumour, was so tough for her . Having chemo and radio therapy gave her hope of another five years of life. Getting a severe case of shingles took the hope of that chemo and radiotherapy away from her. That was unfair, unkind and unjust.

Everyone was a part of her life will miss her so much.

Her funeral service today started today with Cat Stevens Morning Has Broken and finished with Led Zep’s  Stairway to Heaven. There was a bit of Eva Cassidy (Songbird) in between, all planned in advance by Jan.

It was said today at the secular service at South Oxfordshire’s brand new Crematorium, during the tributes from her family, that she was a private person, a great administrator and planner. That was so true.

It was also highlighted how she never too credit for all that she did for people. So true.

She spent much of her life watching over her friends and family, ready to lend an ear and give help, love and advice in any way she could.

Many of us made the trip from afar today to give thanks for her life and celebrate the wonderful things she made happen.

Jan did not drink, loved cats (her latest was called Raffa) and went to see Les Mis 16 times.

Everyone whose life she touched will miss her so much.

She was not religious, but I am sure she is already starting to organise things up above.

I like to think she will still be watching over us every day…having taken that stairway.


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This article was written on 04 Dec 2015, and is filed under East London, Family, family life, Janet Martin.

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