Jewish Care’s own Queen Esther 109 years young05 Apr 2016
Esther Sachon celebrated her 109th birthday on the Jewish festival of Purim with staff, residents and volunteers of Jewish Care’s Princess Alexandra Home where she lives in Stanmore.
As it’s traditional to dress up on the festival, Esther put on a crown and mask, fitting with the story of Purim, which features Queen Esther as the leading lady. Esther also celebrated with a birthday tea together with her family on her birthday.
Jewish Care believes that they may have the oldest Jewish woman in the UK living in one of their care homes. According to a *website which lists people 107+ Esther Sachon, 109 on 18 March is the 34th oldest person living in Britain.
Meeting and talking to Esther, it is hard to believe that she is 109. According to her daughter, Helena,
“Mum was born on Purim in 18 March 1907 and her mum already had three daughters so was thinking of a name for her – Esther was the natural choice of course, being born on Purim and her Hebrew name is Malka.”
Esther has been a resident at Jewish Care’s Princess Alexandra Home since she turned 101 and grew up in the East End near Whitechapel. Esther has lived through two world wars and remembers Zepplins over London. When she lived near Hessle Street in the East End she remembers somebody owning a cow and they went to get fresh milk from them in the mornings.
She met her husband, Louis, dancing at the Oxford & St George’s Club at Henriques House in the East End when she was 17, and they were married when she was 20, he was just a few years older than her. They later moved to Stamford Hill, Hendon and Stanmore, not far from the home where she lives now.
Together they had two sons, Peter and Michael, and a daughter, Helena, who was 5 when her father Louis, passed away, relatively young in 1951. The two brothers were 13 and 11 when Helena was born and have now sadly also passed away. Today, Esther is a proud grandmother of five and has 13 great grandchildren, ranging from the ages of 15 months into their 20’s.
Louis had a paint-making business making cellulose paint for cars and Esther worked in the textile business throughout her life as a leading sales person at the Wallis store in Oxford Street.
Helena explains what a great mother Esther has always been, working hard to look after her family after being widowed at a young age. “Mum started as a dressmaker and then after Dad died she had to work hard. She worked for Wallis for thirty years. She was a great cook, kept a great home, looked after us very well and only knew about doing things for other people.
“Mum always worked in fashion and didn’t retire until she was well into in her 70’s – and no one had a clue how old she was because she always looked so young.
“Now, at 109,” continues Helena, “Mum’s very particular about what she wears and takes great care over her appearance. She gets her nails and hair done at the home every week and she’s still so observant, she notices everything. If I’ve got a new scarf for example, she always comment on that and ask me about it.”
Esther enjoys spending time with her daughter Helena and son-in-law, Lionel, and seeing grandchildren and great-grandchildren who visit her at the home. She still enjoys taking part in some of the activities in the home, sometimes playing cards with other residents.
She has now received 6 birthday cards from Her Majesty the Queen wishing her well.
When asked how she stays so young, Esther says, “It’s my daughter Helena who keeps me young.”
Home manager, Elizabeth Mandeya said, “We really enjoyed celebrating this landmark birthday with Esther, and wish her congratulations. She’s a lovely lady with a very good sense of humour, she is very alert and knows all the staff by name. She has seen so much in her lifetime and she is a remarkable living histories of the past century.”
Esther sadly recently passed away. Helena, Esther’s daughter said, “Mum was phenomenal. She was an amazing lady and she never thought about herself, it was always about everyone else. She had a hard life as she was widowed in 1950 but she never complained and I’ve never had a cross word with her. She was devoted to her children, grandchildren and then 13 great grandchildren who she loved to see and who loved to see her.
“We’d like to thank the staff at the Princess Alexandra Home who have been amazing, Mum was very fond of them.
“Now we celebrate her life, she never wanted any fuss over her birthdays but she deserved all the respect that people are paying.”
Helena’s husband, Lionel, who read the eulogy, added, “It was a real privilege to call her mum”.