I first met Jenny at a Sunday School meeting in 1993. We were at the Vicarage and although I had seen Jenny at church we had not chatted much. When we realised that we both lived out of the parish in Tooting and that our children were the same age we struck up a long lasting friendship. Jenny was always indebted to the then vicar John Clarke whom she and Tom had approached to ask if they could marry at St Mary’s. As they didn’t live in the parish, John Clarke at first said no – at which point Jenny burst into tears. John decided to make an exception! From that moment Jenny was a faithful servant to St Mary’s. She loved the church and it was always very special to her as the place she had made her vows to her beloved husband Tom.
In addition to being a church friend, our lives crossed in many other ways: our children went to the same playgroup and I have memories of Jenny arriving to collect James always looking absolutely beautiful and immaculately turned out – me and other hassled mums were in awe of her. I remember winning a meal for two at Tom and Jenny’s restaurant – La Bouffe in Battersea Rise – in a playgroup raffle and it was on that occasion that I first met Tom.
Jenny was a real family woman and nothing made her happier than spending time with Tom, Charlie and James. Jenny was a generous and wonderful loving mother. She adored her sons and did everything she could for them. They adored her too. Tom absolutely worshipped Jenny; he is such a gentleman. Jenny had a very easy going but firm approach to parenting and through the years we always shared family problems. Jenny gave good, loving and honest advice.
In 2003 our families became more closely linked through rugby: Tom was a coach and manager of Battersea Ironsides. He is currently Chairman. Tom is passionate about rugby in general and Ironsides in particular. It was there that my son George and James Courtenay Clack became close friends. Junior rugby is usually played on a Sunday and this regular pattern of Sunday life with Jenny and I at church and George with James and Tom at rugby continued for many years. I would often see Jenny at St Mary’s and then go straight to a match where George was with Tom. George hero worships Tom.
Jenny’s faith was very deep and strong. Going to church helped her with the deaths of her parents and more recently her cousin, who died on Christmas Eve. Six weeks after her own mother died very suddenly, Jenny had a dream in which her mum appeared to her and told her that she was ok and that she was with God. Jenny asked her mother if she had actually seen God and her mother made a ‘don’t ask that sort of question’ face and the dream ended. Naturally Jenny found great comfort from this.
Jenny loved to renew her faith every Easter by attending the services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Her favourite service at church was the Easter Vigil. We would often hatch a plan to get our husbands and children to attend with the promise that each other’s families would be there. I remember one year finding George, Charlie and James at the back of the church setting fire to their order of services with their Easter candle! Oh dear!
My very favourite Jenny story involves a 16 year old Jenny living in Cardiff. For some reason she had taken a shine to Lemmy from the heavy metal band Motorhead – he of the long hair, hard drinking and well-worn features. Jenny wrote to him and invited him to visit her at her home. 35 year old Lemmy responded and an arrangement was made.
Jenny and her parents sat up and waited for his very late arrival by motorbike. Before going to bed, Jenny’s dad warned Lemmy that although the spare room where Lemmy was to sleep was off Jenny’s room, there was a trip wire alarm which would be triggered if he attempted to get into her room (of course this was nonsense). In the morning,
Lemmy came downstairs for a family breakfast to find Jenny in her school uniform ready to get the school bus. A hilarious story – I have dined out on it many times!
Jenny’s faith journey was helped on its way by her participating in the Alpha course at St Mary’s, which she enjoyed immensely. She especially loved the holy spirit day and regularly attended the home group set up after completing the Alpha course. Jenny supported Alpha as host in subsequent courses by cooking and helping to clear up. Jenny had been due to take over from Alison Wintgens as the Alpha coordinator.
In the weeks before Jenny died I was lucky enough to spend lots of time with her on the Lent course. We spoke honestly about death and I clearly remember Jenny saying that she was completely reconciled to her own death, but that she was just sad for those that she would have to leave behind.
At this year’s Easter Vigil Rev Stuart Hoke invited us all to go to the font and baptize each other before going downstairs for a drink to celebrate the resurrection. I had always been jealous of Jenny’s lovely thick blonde hair and I told her that I was going to really soak her with the water. I poured three big scoopfuls on her and she very generously just
splashed me a bit. It was a special moment and I thank God for it.
The next day we had Easter lunch at the Courtney Clack’s home. It was a lovely relaxed and happy occasion with nearly all the children.
At present, I am unable to delete Jenny’s contact details from my phone or her email address from my computer. Thank you God for Jenny’s faithful and loving life. I miss her.
Jenny Courtenay Clack: 3 November 1955 – 10 May 2014 – loved and missed by many.