Alison's Tribute

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Hilda

The Jaffe sisters (Hilda and Leila) were the daughters of Russian Jewish refugees who met and made their home in Liverpool . Hilda was born in 1916, during the Great War, whilst Leila, my mother, was born 4 years earlier.

The family fortunes ranged from prosperity to hardship as their father (Myer’s) entrepreneurial ventures met with success or failure. Myer was a passionate socialist and so the climate of their childhood was a Jewish culture, mixed with Marxism. Their father as a teenager delivered communist newspapers for Lenin, smuggling them through the forests, before he was forced to leave his native Latvia during the pogroms in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Hilda was a land girl in the Second World War, working on farms in Devonshire , where she learnt about life in the country and she told me she always thought she would live there one day. Her love of the countryside and the natural world developed during holidays with the Hamiltons . Lilian continued to be a great friend throughout her life.

She met and married Louis soon after the war and they made their home in Hampstead, where Louis had always lived. My early memories of their home in Oakhill Park are of a large sunny garden with lawns and shrubberies, and babies in prams and later rushing through the undergrowth with my younger cousins, Jonathan and Nicholas. Play in large gardens continued at Langland Gardens where the family has lived since the late fifties.

Hilda and Louis made a home in which the boys could develop to their full potential. Whilst Louis could give them every encouragement and help with the arts, particularly music and painting, they benefited from Hilda’s affinity with mathematics and science. She positively embraced new technology and truly enjoyed learning about the Internet into her 80’s. The fact that both sons obtained PhD’s and have done so well in their careers was a source of great joy to both Hilda and Louis.

Hilda had great passion for children. Her skills in drawing out their interests and abilities were remarkable. While she was Headmistress at Rhyl School she would invite me to take my children to the nursery class on our visits to London . She particularly loved the nursery and the teachers there and wanted to share it with us. It was a haven of calm with many stimulating activities, and was a fine example of current nursery teaching at that time. When we walked around with her in the school children were constantly coming up to her and talking to her. She seemed to know and have time for all of them.

The idea of the garden at Rhyl was well before it’s time, and she had to fight hard to make it happen. By the time the idea had taken hold Louis had retired and so had more time to help. After his retirement they were inseparable and he often was at school with her.

The garden was a place where Louis’ design knowledge and creativity were much needed. This garden was made with the help of parents and the children, giving the children real knowledge of growing plants and wildlife. Now many schools have a garden or a wildlife area….but not then…in 1980.

Hilda and Louis were without doubt the most devoted couple I have ever known, and Hilda was truly broken-hearted when Louis died. Louis will always be remembered for his humor and modesty, and of course all his paintings are there to remind us of the wonderful holidays the family had. Although not in good health, Hilda was thrilled at the arrival of her grand children and even when she was unwell, the presence of children was always a joy to her. Jonathan and Nicholas and their loved ones were the foundation of Hilda’s world. For all of us an era is now past.