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Monday, October 14, 2013

Marie Donovan obituary

My mother, Marie Donovan, who has died aged 88, was a battler for whom life was never easy, but she brought harmony through her consideration of others and a desire never to leave a situation worse than she found it.

Born Marie Cooper in London, she suffered the loss of her mother when she was 10 and was then placed in the "care" of a governess, who beat her. The governess was only dismissed when it was found she had been stealing from the neighbours. Marie was so traumatised by the experience that years later, on a day out from school, she fainted upon spotting her former adversary in the street.

However, she enjoyed the great support of her aunt, who ran the Logan Rock Inn, near Penzance, in Cornwall. She spent many happy holidays at the pub, working behind the bar as she got older. Among the customers was Dylan Thomas, a firm favourite with Marie, though her most vivid memory was how he told her she would not make a great poet.

Marie had her first brush with serious illness when she caught pneumonia in her early 20s, then often fatal. However, it was the early days of penicillin and she became one of the first people to try it. Fortunately it worked.

She went on to become a primary school teacher, first in Portsmouth, then in Newham, east London, where she taught for more than 30 years at Kensington primary school in East Ham. There she met Denis Donovan, whom she married in 1956. In the early 1960s she took a break from teaching to have her sons, Andrew and me. She had a real love of teaching and seeing children progress through education. Marie also had a great affection for Newham as a borough which she felt did the best it could for some of the poorest children in the country.

Marie and Denis retired in 1983, then moved to Eastbourne, East Sussex. Shortly after that, Marie was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent surgery and survived. However, there was later a steady deterioration in the quality of her life as she suffered arthritis and her hearing and eyesight worsened.

As a mother, wife and friend, few could have been more loved. Denis died in 2008. Marie is survived by Andrew, me and a grandson, Christian.

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