Frances Turner, social worker who spent a life helping others

After her retirement in 2005, she became the chair of Jewish Women’s Action

Tuesday, 3rd May — By Dan Carrier

Frances Turner 2 IMG_0554

Frances Turner

LOYAL, brave, funny, and a true “mensch” – the accolades for the life of Frances Turner, who died earlier this month, have revealed her impact on family, friends and strangers.

Frances, who was 75, spent her days working to improve others’ lives – be it her role as a social worker and at Hampstead Community Centre, a counsellor, a volunteer at the domestic abuse charity JWA, or simply through her unswerving dedication to her friends. Frances was born to Ettie and Henry Coe in 1947.

Her father made veneer – his work gracing the interiors of the car firm Jaguar. Her mother came from Latvia in the 1930s to study English. The pair met, fell in love, and decided to marry. Ettie had been due to head back home.

Her family were worried about the looming war, but when the Munich Agreement delayed the conflict, Ettie’s mother gave the wedding her blessing and travelled to the UK, returning to Latvia before war broke out. It was the last time Ettie saw her mother, the family murdered by Nazis or perished fighting them.

Frances was born in 1946 in Wembley and attended Heathfields secondary school and completed a business diploma at the City of London College.

Frances Turner

Frances met David Turner when she was aged 15. He was two years older, and fell in love immediately – though it took him a little while to snare the object of his desires.

They were married in 1971 and have three children: Anna in 1973, Ben in 1977 and Gabe in 1980. In the early years of their marriage, they lived in Primrose Hill before moving to Belsize Park in the mid-1970s. It was here Frances created the perfect family home so many will recognise – full of friends, love, laughter and joy.

In the 1960s Frances worked for Task Force, a charity providing support for older people, and then became a social worker at Euston’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital.

In the 1970s, Frances studied at the London School of Economics and took a course in counselling at the South West London Poly. In the 1980s, Frances joined Hampstead Community Centre and set up projects, including a mother and baby group and the Hampstead Counselling Service.

After her retirement in 2005, she became the chair of Jewish Women’s Action.

A feminist, she was not afraid of speaking truth to power, and doing what she knew was right. Other voluntary roles included working for the Anna Freud Centre and Jewish Continuity.

Many have stories about Frances and the trail she blazed: one anecdote shared at her funeral by her son, Ben, reveals her sense of humour.

“As a Jew who goes to shul, you get a lot of people saying ‘you’re so tall, how did you grow so tall’ over and over. It’s a remarkably common question considering how little appetite people have for a discussion on the complex interplay between genetics, diet and other environmental factors,” he recalled.

“Dad would laugh and say people are just trying to be friendly and not everyone is blessed with great chat. “But Mum could never resist. I remember her on a few occasions when asked ‘why are your sons so tall?’ saying ‘I still breastfeed them’.”

Frances loved opera.  A fan of Verdi and Mozart, she was a Friend of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

She loved art galleries, taking her grandchildren along on culturally enriching trips and introducing them to ballet.  They recall that as well as enjoying high culture, Frances wasn’t adverse to a shopping expedition to buy them new clothes.

There were walks, visits to gardens, and always a course offering a new set of skills she fancied learning.

Frances’s impact will be remembered by her friends – and her legacy includes the many, many people who did not know her but had their world enriched by the work she dedicated her life to.

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