Our Loving Nan – A Life Well Lived

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She was born in 1924.  London England.
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Nanny, Bob and Margaret

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She was 15 of 16 kids.
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Her given name was Mabel Robbins.  No middle name.  It kind of bugged her because one of her sisters had 3 names; Lillian Rose Hopper AND everyone called her Dingle.  So really she had 4 names.  One day she questioned her father about it and he said to her “it don’t mean nothing to me old darling call yourself anything you want”.  So she chose Jean.
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They lived in Rotherhithe and then Deptford then Greenwich.  She told stories of walking to town with her dad leading the way, holding up his hands to stop traffic at crossings to help all his little ones cross the street.     On Mondays her mom would bring the dirty wash to the baths in Bermondsey.  She would stand in line and then spend all day washing clothes, sheets and towels.  She would spend all day on Tuesday ironing.  Nanny would say her mom worked all the time.  At night sometimes, her dad would put the earphones for the radio on her mom’s head, set her in a chair with a cup of tea and a cigarette and he would get all the kids ready for bed.  She remembered him saying “I am married to the finest women in England”.

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She said her family was always singing, that they were a “happy lot”.

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They lived on the river Thames.   She love the hustle and bustle of the city and the river.  The river would rise and flood the street that was made of wooden blocks soaked in creosote.  They would carry them back home and use them for firewood.  She would say to us… “yes I do know the muffin man”, because growing up, her neighborhood not only had a muffin man, but a lamplighter and a coal man.  She told of a guy on a bicycle that would come by and sharpen your knives, a salt and vinegar man pushed a wheelbarrow with a barrel full of vinegar and a big block of salt.  He would fill up your jug and cut a wedge of salt for you.  They had a man that sold shrimp and winkles, cockles and mussels and jellied eels.  If that doesn’t sound like the start of a Charles Dickens novel I don’t know what does.
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She lived through the bombing of London in WWII.  She had stories of hearing bombs drop, black outs and rushing into bomb shelters.  She would collect shrapnel to earn money.  She had so many stories.
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She met our Grandad Jimmy Doyle, an American GI, on a London train.
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Nanny and Jimmy Doyle

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They married, became pregnant and Jimmy was eventually sent back to America.  When the baby, our Uncle Terry, was 8 months old, she finally immigrated to America to be with Jimmy.  It took her a few tries, she didn’t want to leave.  Once she was bound for a voyage to American on a ship.  She got to the dock and couldn’t do it.  She didn’t want to leave the only family she knew or her beloved London.   Eventually she did get on a PanAm flight from London to NYC.  She arrived on Christmas Day 1946.

Welcome to America

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When she arrived in NYC her pocketbook was stolen.  Along with it all her money.  She was 22 years old, in a strange country, full of strange accents.  She held an 8 month old baby and had no idea how far NYC was from St. Paul, MN.  The American Red Cross gave her a train ticket and she hopped on the train to her future.
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There is so much more to her story.  More than I can possibly share in a blog post.
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Nanny as a Mermaid?

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She and Jimmy lived a nice life.  They raised 5 kids, who raised 24 grand kids, who are raising 13 great grand kids.
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Quite a legacy.
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She was a glass half full girl. She always believed the best would come, and for her it usually did.
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She was always smiling, knitting and singing…always.
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Smiling, Knitting and Singing

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She taught us to be glass half full people too.  To believe that the best will come.  And for us, so far so good.
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Carly and I and the rest of our clan, are proud to be part of her legacy.  We will smile and knit and sing too, remembering our Nanny.
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Life well lived Nan.  Well done you.  Rest in peace.

 

More of our blogs mentioning our Nanny here and…here…and here…and here…and here…and here
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10 Responses to “Our Loving Nan – A Life Well Lived”

  1. Ann Scott says:

    Thanks, Aimee, for sharing your Nanny Jean’s story. You have endeared her to me when you posted a class to knit Christmas Stockings just like she did for all of her family members. It was at Christmastime and I was thinking of doing something like that for my family. But, the idea of taking a class with others who will not only be knitting Christmas Stockings together but sharing stories – hopefully some about Nanny Jean too – was too good to pass up. So, in April I’ll be at DIA knitting Stockings and hearing more about her. Her life and legacy touches many lives — mine included.

  2. Holly Anderson says:

    Girls, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your Nanny. After reading your blogs I see you both had a great love and closeness with a wonderful caring person. I can also see from your story of her life that she passed on to both of you a wonderful legacy and togetherness of a very strong family. Bless those memories and share them with your children as they grow to adulthood. Family history can influence even the youngest to become strong, caring people as they grow.

    Thinking of you at this time of loss,

    Holly

  3. Karen says:

    So so sorry for the loss of your beloved grandma. She did a great job on you two and will be watching over you from above.

  4. Katrina says:

    What a beautiful homage! I have a feeling that there are many, MANY more stories where these came from. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Suzette says:

    What a sweet tribute to your wonderful Nanny Jean. Thanks for sharing her family story.

  6. Kristen W says:

    I had the honor of meeting Nanny a few years ago when I was in your shop (coincidentally to buy some yarn to send to my own nanny). Such a pleasure listening to her stories and to her playful banter with Aimee. I particularly remember Aimee describing how she had “busted Nanny out” of her senior housing to spend the day at the shop. Thanks for sharing Nanny and her legacy with us!

  7. Kate Doyle says:

    Aimee, that was a wonderful story of Auntie Jean! And, the pictures were exceptional! May I use what you have written in my geneology of the family? I will connect with you and Carly cuz I have heard the story a little differently about her coming over – She sure was a “cup half full” and she tried to teach that to me, but I am still working on it. What an incredibly lovely woman she was.
    Love, Kate

  8. Beth says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your Nanny! Thank you so much for sharing a piece of her with the rest of us. My deepest condolences for the loss your family has suffered, but what a wonderful blessing to have such amazing memories and stories!

  9. tess says:

    I know I’m a bit late to the game, but I really loved reading this and also wanted to send you my belated condolences. Your Nanny Jean sounds like an incredible person – thanks for sharing this part of your family’s story. xo

  10. […] and my grandmother. We called her Nanny or Nan.  There are plenty of blog posts about our Nan.  This is a great one..and this…heck, just search Nanny on our blog:) […]

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