Ethel Fedor celebrates 103 birthday

15 Apr 2019

Ethel Fedor, celebrated her 103 birthday this Sunday, surrounded by some 30 relatives whose ages span four generations. The family of well wishers organised a party for Ethel at Jewish Care’s Lady Sarah Cohen House, where Ethel has been a resident for 6 months. The celebration was enjoyed by everyone from the youngest of the great grandchildren, Alfie, who is 100 years Ethel’s junior, to her grandchildren and daughter, Ros. Ethel received a specialised phone with her closest family on speed dial, so she can keep in touch whenever she would like to.

During the tea party, Ethel led a rendition of Ce Sera Sera, in response to questions about how she came to reach the age of 103, saying, “I’ll never know how I came to get to this age, but it’s lovely to be surrounded and supported by my family today!”

Ethel, who was born 5th April 1916, said, “I think getting to this age is luck. I’ve had my sorrows, but my wonderful daughter Ros, my grandchildren and all my family keep me going. My proudest achievement is having such a loving, caring family with 11 great-grandchildren between the years of 3 to 19.”

Ethel, who played in the inter-home and community centre card day last week, organised by Jewish Care’s Bridge Extravaganza Committee, continues, “I played Bridge for 50 years, my husband, Percy and I, enjoyed going on our Bridge holidays. Today, when my family come and visit me at the Betty and Asher Loftus Centre, we enjoy playing Kalooki together. I also enjoy the concerts and entertainment, especially the 1940’s style music.”

Ethel was born in Shoreditch. She lived in North Finchley for 26 years and before that in Islington. Talking about her life, she says, “I wanted to be a writer when I was younger but it wasn’t really possible for a poor young woman from the East End so I left school young to work, like a lot of my generation. That’s how it was.

“After leaving school young, I worked hard as an invisible mender at my aunt's establishment in Cannon Street. After the War I learnt to audio type at night school and worked as a temp for many years, including legal secretarial work.

Ethel and her husband, Percy, met through their shared interest in cycling. She explains, “When I was younger, my brother and I were members of the Clarion Cycling Club, who had groups all over London. My brother sold Percy a bike and that’s how we met. He was in the club too and cycled all over the world. We soon married and used to go on cycling holidays together. Percy and I were married for 43 years and had many happy years together.”

Their joint interest in cycling took them to Europe just before World War II broke out. Ethel says, “I can remember just before war broke out we went to cycle in the Black Forest in Belgium. We stayed at a hostel for cyclists and walkers. It was a strange time to be in that part of Europe. Everyone at the hostel sang their national songs and when we came across the Germany-Luxembourg border we swiftly turned around. In England, things weren’t good at that time either. I can remember the fascists in Cable Street very clearly, though I didn’t get involved.

Percy served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Egypt, Al Kabeer and Ethel was evacuated to Letchworth to escape the Blitz. There she has her eldest daughter, Diane, in 1941. Remembering that time, she says, “All the relatives from London used to come and stay whenever they could get away from London and the bombing. It was an open house and a very welcome haven for them.”

After the war, Ethel and Percy returned to London's East End to be in a Jewish environment and had their second daughter, Rosalind. Ethel says, “We lived there in rather cramped circumstances until we were able to get a larger flat in Highbury in the early 50’s. We were very happy.”

She says, “Looking back, I think the biggest change in my lifetime has been technology and computers. It has changed everything and there are new opportunities. Though I think young people spend too much time on computers and phones. They’d be better off talking to each other and being sociable. It was hard in the 30’s when jobs were hard to find, life is a bit easier now.”

Ethel’s daughter, Ros, added, “Mum is an inspiration to us all. Celebrating her 103rd Birthday at Lady Sarah Cohen House was fabulous and we are all very proud of her. She has taught me so much during her lifetime especially that family is the most important thing of all. Her wisdom has encouraged and helped me throughout my life and I hope we can spend many more good times together.”