Jump to content

Cooperlola - A Widower's tribute


Recommended Posts

Deb and I became an item

39 years ago this week. I basically nicked her off my flatmate, who moved out

shortly afterwards! It is all a bit ironic, because in that same week my mother

was dying of cancer on the liver, and I know Deb had been touched by my story

of sitting back to back with mum to ease her back pain. Mum died the following

week, and my father suffered horribly.

The Deb I think France

Forum knew was a strong minded, intelligent person, caring, left-wing, always

likely to want her own way. We married in 1974, when deb was 19, on the strict

understanding that kids would not be borne, and there was never a moment's

regret on that subject on either side. Deb wanted to work with horses, and did

so for about 6 months, but the pay was on the low side of dreadful, and so she

decided to join the railway. I had worked there for 7 years, and the previous

boyfriend and other friends were also there. She did quite well, and within a

dozen years was a senior manager in a BR subsidiary – Travellers Fare. She then

progressed into the Executive Group – beating me into that grade, in which

there were very, very few women. She was part of the Management Buyout of TF at

Xmas 1988, but from there things went wrong. There were too many partners – 10 –

and Deb was the only female, as well as being the youngest. She was put under

enormous pressure, and in mid-1989 resigned, never having made a penny from the

deal. Almost immediately she won a job with Bottoms Up, the wine purveyors, as

Marketing Manager, and had a hectic year before the last recession started to

bite and sales fell. She was offered a package to go, and did so. That was her

last “demanding” job, and that is part of your story.

From 1990 until 2004 she

did menial work, supermarket stuff, then caring for horses and cleaning house.

During that time she met some first rate people, several of whom I have had to

talk to in the last few days – i.e. enduring friendships. They recognised Deb

was more than a cleaner. One – a retired teacher who has herself been bereaved

in the last year - told me that her whole family adored Deb and thought the

world of her.

In 2004 we moved here as

I opted for early retirement, having opted to work part-time for the previous

18 months while we got things sorted. I still find it implausible that in BR

and its successors, no-one ever paid me to go away! I’m not sure when Deb

joined France Forum, but I do know she found it a most gratifying environment,

from which she gained a great deal of knowledge and cameraderie in tandem. It fulfilled

an intellectual need that had not been met since she dropped out of executive

life in 1990. Thus when the healthcare issue arose, she was determined to take

it to the top and fight the good fight, with a result - due to the input of plenty

of others, of course - that put many minds to rest. After the main battle

seemed won, she went away for a boozy lads’ weekend in Rotterdam, and loved it.

Someone there asked where I was – and she said I’d hate it. True! But when she

returned she was exhausted, and basically had a flu-like condition for about a


The accident in 2008 was

a turning point in our lives. On one level it made us closer, because I had a

new role as a partial-carer, but on another level it just created new tensions –

because Deb so resented needing care. Last year’s cancer was a shock – except that

to me the accident had kinda changed things irrevocably, so I was almost philosophic

when it was diagnosed. Since 2008 she had been different – Mrs Grumpy in her own


And now she’s gone. I’m

sure the full impact has not yet hit me, but it is as if I’ve expected it,

perhaps right back to 39 years ago, when I watched my father suffer. Living

alone is not a novelty – Deb’s many months in hospital have given me

preparation in spades for that – but no doubt there will be some bad days. You

may see me on here from time to time, but don’t expect the quality that Deb

delivered. That has gone for good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How well you described the person that was Deb.  Always there for the underdog and always fighting for what she would see is only "just and fair"; not merely for herself, possibly hardly ever for herself, but on behalf of others.

Before I met Deb (at our now historic lunch in Bergérac), I'd already received and exchanged many messages with her both on the Forum and in the PMs.  More often than not the giving of information and advice was on Deb's side as she knew so much more than I do about living in France and generally she'd much the more common sense and balance of outlook.

OTOH, we could be giggly and silly and, on that score, I was probably just slightly ahead!

She commanded my affection, respect and admiration in equal measure.

Then, when I was on the Camino and was worrying about how to get home to France, Deb, without any hesitation, offered to drive to Spain and bring me home!  It was with some difficulty that I dissuaded her as I didn't want her to come all that way and, in any case, she was awaiting some doctor's appointment or other.

When I sit at my piano, I think of Deb.  Why?  Because, when I was short of space in our new home, it was Deb who came up with the quite brilliant idea of "putting the joanna" in the bedroom.  So, that's where the piano has been and where I get peace and quiet to indulge myself.

Dear Deb, if there is a better place than this one, I am sure you are already there.

Ian, what a wonderful life companion you have had and I am sure that, in the coming days and years, you will be able to draw strength and comfort from your memories of life with Deb.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian, thank you for that - I am sure that writing that has helped both us, and more importantly, you, to come to terms with the loss of Deborah.

However, I think you belittle yourself - and the two examples I quote below will show you why I think this:


alone is not a novelty – Deb’s many months in hospital have given me

preparation in spades for that – but no doubt there will be some bad days. "

Ian you have hidden strengths you do not as yet know about - believe me - to have borne all you have since the accident, and yet stay true to yourself and to Deborah, is strength in itself.


may see me on here from time to time, but don’t expect the quality that Deb

delivered. That has gone for good."

Ian, it is very true that you will need time to grieve, and that is at it should be, but there will come a time when life starts again, and you will feel ready to start again.  If ever you do feel able to come back to this forum and share your ideas, knowledge and feelings with us, you will give of YOUR quality - probably differently from how Deborah would have done it, but still worthy and welcome.  

For myself - I do hope you will stay and contribute to this forum from time to time - you live here in France, and have done so for enough time to know enough to be a useful informant to us all, just as Deborah was. 

For the moment, I wish you well in all that you will have to do in the coming weeks, and hope to see you back on this forum when you feel the time is right.

God bless you, Ian.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry - must add this to my post....

Whilst I was composing my missive - Sweets got in before me, and I want to add this:

Dear Deb, if there is a better place than this one, I am sure you are already there.

Don't worry, Sweets - I know there is a better place - and Deborah is definitely there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian you have such a simple and beautiful way of expressing everything.  You must have been such a calm, steady rock for Coops.  I cannot really explain how I feel, but I feel so sad and cannot stop thinking about it, as if I had lost someone close, yet I hardly had any direct contact with her, as we often dealt with different subjects on here.  It just shows the enormous impact she had on us all.

Coops loved people, animals, photography and of course cars!  She loved everything, especially life and obviously made the most of it.  Why oh why was life so unfair to her?

Yes, please come back whenever you feel like it.  You are now part of the forum and very much loved on here too.  Please try to take care of yourself now and I wish you the strength to overcome your great loss and one day be able to enjoy the happy memories.

Christine xxx


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian, Thank you for that beautiful tribute to Deb. It fills in some of the blanks in my mind's picture of her. I now know where she got her strength to be so patient and understanding with people here when she had a different point of view to their's. I look forward to more of your contributions in the future. You are very much in my thoughts just now
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian your tribute to Debs moved me to tears.  You expressed the respect and love you had for her in the most eloquent way and it's not difficult to see why so many people admired her so much.  I met Debs at the Bergerac lunch during her Itchy Feet tour and admired her modesty and simplicity and her courage in the face of everything that had happened to her.  She was an intelligent, loving, amusing person who will be greatly missed.

You will have some difficult times in the months, even years to come but the mutual love and respect you had for each other will help you through.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian, you paint a moving and very human portrait of a very strong and loving person, with whom you obviously had a deeply fulfilling and long-lasting relationship, despite life's ups and downs. Thank you for giving us this insight into Deb's other life, before you moved to France and she joined the forum. To me it reinforces the sense of loss I feel at her untimely death.

Be kind to yourself over these next hard weeks and months and please don't be a stranger on here. When you feel up to returning you will be very welcome, not as a substitute for Deb, for no-one can be that, but in your own right.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wanted to add a few words of tribute as someone who worked with Deb in the French Health Issues group. I recognise that not every one shares the same view of this affair, but I can say that for those of us who were in France and caught up in the negative impact of the introduction of the changes, Deb was a shining light. She led the group in taking on the French, British and European authorities, using social and conventional media, blogs, telephone, letters, email. She worked tirelessly, with absolute focus and sheer bloody-mindedness. It was impossible not to love her and admire her energy, her commitment and her very real successes. Deb and FHI got things changed and we, along with many others owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

I hope it is of some comfort to you Ian, to know how important she was and how much she made a difference. She will be sorely missed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian your tribute to Debs is beautiful. I wish I had met her, but I do feel that I know her a bit from longstanding contributions to this forum.

Debs had integrity, a quality that's very rare these days. And she genuinely cared about other people's welfare, even when she had more than enough problems of her own.

It will take some accepting, being on your own, I'm sure you'll get good support from loved ones.

Thinking of you - Pat xx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote user="cooperlola2"]You

may see me on here from time to time, but don’t expect the quality that Deb

delivered. That has gone for good.

I hope we do see you here (though I can't talk having been an infrequent visitor / contributor over the past few years) but you should have no fears about delivering quality. This tribute was fascinating and sad in equal parts; and so beautifully written. The quality is there, be in no doubt about that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Create New...