Wednesday 3 February 2021

Theresa "Tessie" Fanning - A celebration of her life - By Rita Fanning and her family

 (Ed Note - Today marked the funeral of Theresa 'Tessie' Fanning. A much loved and missed member of the Barnet community, a long term resident of Mill Hill,  and later September Court and Leadbetters (care establishments run by Barnet Council). Tessie was well known to older members of the Sacred Heart community in Mill Hill and more recently around the Friern Barnet area where she lived. Sadly she recently succumbed to a covid infection. The family were keen to celebrate her life and share this beautiful eulogy, delivered by Rita Fanning and contributed to by her brothers and sisters, as many who would have normally attended the service were unable. We have also included the live Youtube broadcast of the service)

Theresa was a light of joy in our lives. As a youngster her love was absolute, her sense of fun infectious, and her energy a spark for our family. I was aged 11 when my sister was born. I loved my baby sister, who seemed to stay at the baby stage for a very long time. She was cuddly and smiley and had a very sweet nature, and sometimes showed a very endearing stubborn streak. She was adored by all. She was a very “special” child.

As the ninth child in a family of ten children she was patient, but also feisty, as she learned to stand her corner with her teasing brothers. Teasing was a way of including her in our family. Her names included Theresa Bernadette Anne, Esmerelda, Tessie, Tess, Tessa, Urs, Bun (short for Bernadette) Tesspot, Little Flower, My Darling, Cabbages and Albert. When the teasing got too much she could be heard saying ‘’Oh Gregory! Stop it! The teasing was all done with much love and affection. Mary would watch and would be amazed at Theresa’s patience.

Gregory said ‘When I think of Tessie, I see the little baby that pierced her father’s heart, with those beautiful smiling eyes and her cheeky little tongue. I spent the first 5 years of my life, every single day, with Tessie. As we grew up, she was my play mate. We played football in the garden; she honed my goalkeeping skills. We played board games together, we played boxing, we played wrestling.  Tessie was always ‘Big Daddy’ and I was ‘Giant Haystack’ I used to be the one who had to go and collect tea towels, hand towels and bath towels so Tessie could spend the afternoon ‘making beds’, giving our mum some much needed respite to watch a film.

Gregory continues, “As I went to school aged 5, Tessie started nursery, taking her nappy in her satchel. I will never hear the name ‘Flower Lane’ without thinking ‘Tessie’. She used to sit in the window seat at home waiting for the bus to come. Heaven help us if it was late! As for snow! Well, the air really turned blue!” Tessie had her first boyfriend Jonathan at Flower Lane school. Of course, she had many other “boyfriends” Cliff Richard, who came to Flower Lane and sang “Congratulations”, Father Corkery, Father Smythe, Father Jeremy and just about any priest. She would hug and tell each one ‘You are my ‘favourite’!

Yes, she was teased with fish bone and tomato skin pie, and songs like ‘there’s No business like ‘Snow Business’ or simply asking her if she wanted a ‘ham burglar?’ (she was frightened of burglars), she would just put her hand out in front of her face and say –' noooo!’ (Later she would use bad language that cannot be repeated in Church! However, that just added to her loveliness.)

She retained so much innocence as she grew up and was always sincere and authentic and was central to her family at home. Despite her special needs she had a strong sense of right and wrong. Being double jointed she could do the splits and often sat in the lotus position like a Buddha well into her 50’s. Her constitution was good and she outlived most of her peers. She learnt to write with the help of her teacher Miss Miller. Theresa was able to recognise her name and towards the end of her life enjoyed finding the letter ‘T’ for Tess.


Eventually she found her own life in community. She was well liked by carers and housemates alike.  We remember the happiness she knew at ‘New Fieldways’ where she met her boyfriend George and enjoyed a busy social life.

As she moved to ‘September Court’ and later to ‘Leadbeaters’ we were impressed by the devotion and affection of many of her carers - like Georgia and Michelle - who have happy memories of spending time with her - even as she started to fade.

Michelle said she was a delight to be with, Theresa often teased her, or helped organise what they were doing (usually a trip to a pub or for a meal). She remembers Theresa hugging her after nearly every dinner and saying ‘You’re the best cook’ and ‘this is my favourite’ – made all the more fun by knowing she said it to whoever had cooked that day!

Many people Loved Theresa. Mrs Morrisey, a lady in the parish, would have her to stay over weekends to give my parents a break. Her keyworker Georgia and her cousin Roger became surrogate family members. Georgia, as Theresa’s dementia worsened, would accompany Theresa to family parties and weddings. Roger took Theresa to Lourdes. He became her ‘Favourite cousin’!!

Theresa did not teach us directly, but we learned so much about life and people from her sunshine and her love of life. Good bye dear Theresa and thank you for everything, ‘Little Flower of the Morning’.  We look forward to seeing you again but for now be at peace with your Mum and Dad and brother in your heavenly home.


Please note that guest blogs are always welcome at The Barnet Eye. We believe it is important to celebrate all members of our community

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