RIP Lena Elisabeth Ryan (née Kessler)

Today was mum’s funeral. She was cremated at Wyre Forest Crematorium, after a service wonderfully led by Reverend Dr David Southall. Click either graphic to see the order of service at full-size (PDF).

front and back of LER order of service inside of LER order of service

The photo on the front is from my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. The photo on the back is from when we arranged for mum to drive a coach for one of her birthdays. She had let slip that she had always wanted to try this when taking her pupils on school trips.

Thanks to lockdown, there were only 10 mourners: Ian and Pamela (my brother and sister-in-law), Susan (my sister), Elly (my wife) and I, two very close neighbours, two other family friends and Stephanie Senter of Worcester Scout Active Support. We all look forward to a post-lockdown celebration of mum’s life, to which we can invite her friends from all around the world.

Mum was active in many things, but mostly

  • teaching – she was an excellent primary-school and swimming teacher;
  • Scouting – mostly with the 5th Worcester Sea Scouts, where my dad was Group Scout Leader for quite a while, but also as district archivist. I think she also was a minutes secretary for a part of Worcester Scouting. She did it the hard way – writing it all long-hand. (So now you know where I get my call to take minutes for community councils.)
  • Twinning – Worcester is twinned with Kleve (northwestern Germany), Le Vésinet (north-central France), Worcester (USA), Ukmerge (Lithuania). Mum and dad had many friends in Kleve. I’m sure they also went to Le Vésinet, but I don’t think they ever went to Worcester, USA or UKmerge.
  • above all, bringing up three children after surviving a rather difficult start in life. (At least one of her children often didn’t appreciate her amazing qualities.) She was born into a Jewish family in Vienna in 1930. She, her sister and her parents escaped to the UK, arriving on her 8th birthday (16 September 1938) not speaking a word of English. I’ve blogged a little about this escape.)


Here are two tributes from Twinning and Scouting read out at the funeral:

Teaching – Heather Stead

When I was asked to write something for Lena I felt – honoured.

The wonderful, vibrant lady that I met when I was a mere teacher training student almost 35 years ago and her equally lovey husband and family, who welcomed me and over the years many others into their home, have always had a special place in my heart.

Lena made my time in Worcester extra special, she was like an extra mum – finding me a little space in the freezer for things, a tutor – reading my essays and telling me which bits to sort out and of course a teacher with a vast range of knowledge and information, tips, hint and tricks to help me through. She always, willingly shared her thoughts and ideas as a good friend does.

When I came home from college thinking “I can’t do this….”  She was always the voice of “Yes you can.” I was the first in my family to go to college and get a degree and Lena helped me all the way. We would talk about the children in her class and about mine on teaching practice. She taught me you can only become a good teacher when you understand how to be a good learner and she practiced being both.We spent many hours comparing notes and chatting and I even went sailing with her when she needed a capsize body for a task.

I came to stay with the Ryan’s for 6 months and stayed for over 3 years. I have always felt part of the family as I shared many important moments, through Bruce going to university, Ian joining the army and Sue starting work. I know how proud your mum was of you all.

Lena’s love of languages and her interest in a wide variety of things has ensured the Ryan family’s respect around the world as many people came to stay from all walks of life. Each year I looked forward to the Christmas card and in it the Christmas update, it was started by Jack and when he passed, Lena carried it on. It was always the time of the year I could catch up with what the family had been doing and it will be missed greatly this year.

Lena was an extra special lady and will be remembered fondly by all who had the pleasure to meet her. Her love of learning, enthusiasm and want to share it with others meant she touched the lives of so many and she will remain in their hearts forever.

Twinning – Liz Smith

Lena was a founding member of the Worcester Twinning Association and she and Jack remained fervently interested in and supportive of our organisation for over 30 years.   Lena brought a sense of realism with her European background, never forgetting her Austrian heritage and frequently regaling us with stories of her childhood in Vienna and her early years in this country.  She continued to travel on twinning visits to our German twin town of Kleve until ill-health made it increasingly difficult for her to do so, then turning her attention to acting as an archive officer for the Association.

She and Jack are much missed in this twinning community.


Mum was always fond of elephants, so there are a huge number of statue, carved and cuddly elephants at the ‘circus’. I hope they will bring joy and comfort to others in the fullness of time. To ease nocturnal hand-cramps, mum held one cuddly friend in each hand. Being fair, she made sure each of the many took turns.

The following is to celebrate the youth that stayed with mum, not to embarrass her.

While she was in hospital and the nursing home this spring, mum had three favourites with her: ‘Squeaky’, ‘Squishy’ and ‘Saggy’. But being a teacher and parent she would comment on how naughty they were, getting into scrapes and hiding from her. Elly even crocheted a wee net to stop them getting away.

We chose Squeaky to accompany her on her last journey. But we couldn’t let them go without having final squeaks ourselves. Click the thumbnails to see the brief movies.

Close-up of Squeaky the elephant

Close-up of Squeaky the elephant (movie)

Bruce and Squeaky

Bruce and Squeaky (movie)

Susan and Squeaky

Susan and Squeaky (movie)

Here are photos from today after the funeral: me with Squishy, and Squishy doing tricks with a baby tomato. I leave you to guess which of us helped with this.

Bruce and Saggy the cuddly elephant Saggy the cuddly elephant doing tricks with a tomato

And a big thank-you to Pamela and Elly for ensuring we were fed after the funeral!

And finally

To mum, L’Chaim!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.