Memorial for Doris Alexander 11.20.1920 – 4.7.2018
Memories of Doris read by Viktoria Lawson
Born within the sound of Bow Bells in the East End of London made Doris a true ‘Cockney’. And she epitomized the true meaning of Cockney… or ‘Dunkirk’, Spirit. She took the Blitz in her stride and faced life’s ups and downs with true Brit-grit. Doris was an inspiration to us all.
Daring to move to America at the age of 80, just a few years later you wouldn’t have known she wasn’t born here, by how many friends she had! (…Only by her London accent!)
Many of us were fascinated by her wartime stories; of helping each-other & getting ‘by’. In fact the 2nd World War part of Doris’ life-story is memorialized forever in the book, ‘Same War, Different Battlefield’ (by Jean Goodwin Messinger). It’s a compelling read.
When I asked our BIC (British Women in Colorado) members about their memories of Doris, many fondly remembered the joy on her face when we gave her a ‘Pearly Queen’ birthday tea party for her 90th.
(Pearly Kings and Queens are an East End of London street-trader tradition, where they dress in outfits decorated with 1000’s of pearl buttons and do philanthropic endeavours, mostly for children’s charities. Several of us made pearl or sequined outfits (like the waistcoat I am wearing now) and we had a “right proper knees-up” (a sing-song to old Cockney, and wartime songs). It was so much fun for us all.
For the party, Alex received lots of old photographs from family in England. Patti put them in an album for Doris, (it’s at the back of the room if you want to have a “butchers” (in Cockney rhyming slang “butcher’s hook”, rhymes with “look”).
Patti also framed a lovely photograph of Doris’ beloved George. Doris was brought to tears by the thoughtfulness.
Many people remarked on what a sharp mind she had; her memory was amazing. She was recollecting stories up to her last days.
Doris didn’t particularly like the gift exchange we did at our Christmas parties, because she couldn’t understand ‘stealing’ a gift from someone who’d just received it. So, she always made sure that her “Brit girls” all had a separate gift from her, whether it was a hand-knitted, made “with love” dish cloth, a British pin, or a box of Cadbury Fingers.
Doris and her sisters lived in the same house when they had young families. One of her young nephews was always asking, “Can I have Tea with aunty Doll?” and when his mum said, “Oh don’t bother her again dear”, he said, “But I’ll take my own tea”. He just so wanted to visit with his lovely aunty Doll.
When the Doctor told her she had inoperable cancer, Doris’ reply was pragmatic and accepting, “Oh well, I’ve had a good innings”. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a term from the game of Cricket. Luckily her Doctor was of Asian descent and acknowledged he understood the reference.
A few comments from friends to end with:
She always had something kind and encouraging to say to me. She made us feel special and loved. I hope she knew how much we loved and respected her.
She was such a strong and generous lady.
She always had a wonderful smile and a bright outlook on life.
She was a lovely, funny, well loved and admired lady. We will miss her lots.
Doris was always interested in what we were up to. She was so happy to visit with all of us.
She will be missed by so many. I still can’t believe she knitted all those kitchen clothes. She was an amazing lady.
She was so looking forward to the new Royal baby and “lovely Harry’s” wedding this year. We will all be thinking of her when these events take place.
Rest in Everlasting Peace Doris. You will be missed by so many. It was truly an honour to know you.
Doris – Her Life, read by Gillian Ivers-Read
11.20.1920 – 4.7.2018
Doris was born in 1920, the year after WW1 ended.
Jack the Ripper’s east London had been demolished tp make
way for the world’s first planned housing development. It was
called the Boundary Estate, (now Listing Buildings meaning it
is part of London’s history to be preserved), and it included
everything a family of those times needed.
Twenty three, four storey, red brick buildings circling a green
area and a bandstand. There were 180 shops of all kinds, 2
churches, a synagogue, 2 schools, a laundry, a bathhouse, a
community centre and 2 public houses. She enjoyed her whole
childhood here, and talked about it fondly her entire life.
She was born in one of these buildings in a gaslit, 2 room
flat, the middle of 5 girls in the family. Most of their neighbours
were European Jews and 90 % of her schoolmates spoke
Yiddish at home. Doris grew to understand a lot of the
language. The Jewish religion forbade them from doing certain
things on their Sabbath, and Doris regularly lit their lamps and
stoves for them. It was here her love for all things Jewish
developed. She loved their customs, their music and their food
especially. In later times, even here in Longmont, she often
found herself the only Gentile in the Kosher aisle at the grocery
Always industrious, she also assisted at the church, polishing
altar brass and whatever else was needed.
At 14, she left school and learned the gentlemen’s bespoke
tailor trade, again in London, a Jewish world. Although her
skills were highly valued in the mens’ clothing circles, she
never learnt anything at all about women’s clothing.
By the late 1030’s, the neighbourhood was changing, as
immigrant areas always do, and the family moved, along with
their neighbours, north to Stamford Hill.
She and George met as teenagers and, by the time she was
19, England was embroiled in WWII. They married in 1941 and
he was already in the uniform of the Royal Air Force. Much of
the London she knew including parts of the street she lived on,
was destroyed by bombs during this conflict.
When the birth of her only child was imminent, she was
evacuated to the countryside and gave birth in a whiskey
baron’s mansion, converted to a maternity home for London
mothers avoiding the bombs. The Estate’s grounds were given
over to the US Army troops bivouacked there. Fields of tents!
A few episodes of Downton Abbey brought back memories of
Straight back to London after the birth, George was soon
posted overseas to serve in the war against Japan. It was a
long, long war. Alex was 4 years old the next time her father
During the conflict, with their husbands all overseas in uniform,
the sisters (and two babies) lived with their parents pooling
resources and spending bombing raids in a dugout hole in the
After the war, housing was scarce and the sisters and their
families shared cramped quarters for many years. It was a
small world then and perfectly wonderful to hear her tell it;
shared food rations, neighbours helping neighbours, unlocked
doors on houses, mums up and down the street to bandage
the cut finger or grazed knee of any child who was hurting.
Alex met an American in Spain in 1962 and announced to her
parents she was going to marry him. George immediately
dispatched Doris to Spain to, “Put a stop to that!” but she
ended up supporting the union and George relented too.
Doris had never flown. George had, but only Spitfires and
Hurricanes. Almost annually though, they would make the trip
to America to visit their growing family in whatever state they
happened to live. They enjoyed it here. The wide open spaces
of the countryside – the huge expanse of skies.
As time took its toll, especially on George’s health, Doris made
the decision to make the trip to the US permanent. When the
time came, George was suffering dementia and they walked
away from their house of over 40 years, with just their
suitcases packed for vacation. At 80 years of age, how hard
that must have been for her.
After 2 years in Texas, the whole family moved to Longmont, to
be near her granddaughter, Sara. Doris lovingly cared for
George as she promised she would. In their new home,
George died just a few months later.
A kind pastor agreed to officiate at his funeral and brought with
him an English lady of Doris’ generation. Through that lady,
Doris was introduced to the Senior Center, where she was
soon enjoying participating in its many activities.
It was she, a few years later who volunteered to host a tea
party for her fellow Senior Center members.
She enlisted her daughter and granddaughter and 2 British
friends to prepare and serve the food. She organized party
games and prizes, all with a British theme. They served about
70 guests that first year, oh what a success! She was asked if
it could be an annual event.
Just as she was beginning to find Senior Center events harder
to attend, a group of British women evolved in Longmont to
form a club. It is they, and for a time Doris too who host the
now bi-annual tea parties for our local Seniors.
She absolutely loved that!