Obituary: Midwife Helen Jeffrey, aged 100, was an 'extraordinary one-off'

Midwife Helen Jeffrey from Gorleston who has died

Midwife Helen Jeffrey who has died aged 100 was a 'force of nature' who was sometimes domineering but always busy and with an inspirational appetite for life. She is pictured here in her 90s. - Credit: supplied by Jenny Longergan

By day she was a midwife who was always too busy pursuing her many and varied interests to have children of her own.

And by night she was a glamorous singer who performed with all the big showbiz names of the day like Danny La Rue, Bruce Forsyth, and Jimmy Tarbuck, dropping her uniform and slipping into her glad rags.

Eileen Helen Jeffrey, known as Helen, who has died aged 100, lived life as "a one off" even singing in German at Great Yarmouth's famous Winter Gardens' biergarten.

Midwife Helen Jeffrey from Gorleston who has died aged 100

The order of service for Helen Jeffrey, who could be demanding but never lost her love for life and interest in a range of varied sphere. - Credit: supplied by Jenny Lonergan

Sometimes rather clipped, demanding, even verging on rude, she had a "no-nonsense" manner that meant she got things done without necessarily following the rules - a trait that won her many admirers.

She had a wide circle of friends, hated cut flowers, and arranged her own funeral, stating it should be "cheap and quick" - although there was a wake following the service on June 23 and a coffin spray, a final and almost comical riposte to her headstrong ways her friends said.

Her friend of almost 50 years Jenny Lonergan said she was "one of a kind" with an almost aristocratic air which saw her living life to the full and having no time for ordinary jobs like housework.

"I have never meet anyone like her," she said, describing her as "a character" and a "force of nature."

Most Read

"Nothing fazed her," she said. "She had a good life and she could stick up for herself."

Mrs Jeffrey, who was married twice, was born in Hertfordshire. She had a brother who was killed in the Second World War.

Midwife Helen Jeffrey from Gorleston who has died aged 100

The order of service for Helen Jeffrey, who could be demanding but never lost her love for life and interest in a range of varied sphere. - Credit: supplied by Jenny Lonergan

She moved to Gorleston after her training and delivered thousands of babies at both the Northgate Maternity Hospital in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital retiring in her late 70s after apparently being "economical" about her age, she told other people.

Mrs Lonergan, who would later become her carer, met Mrs Jeffrey when she delivered her son, now 48.

Subsequently she would call in on her rounds, often asking one mum to express milk for another - something that would be considered unthinkable today.

She described her friend as well-spoken, highly intelligent, and always perfectly turned out, booking herself in for regular facials and manicures well into her late 90s and always in full hair and make-up.

Mrs Jeffrey was well known in Gorleston, and especially at the Cliff Hotel, Pier Hotel, and Pavilion Theatre which were among her favourites.

Addressing everyone as "darling" she could be difficult, but had an air of authority that usually meant people danced to her tune as she "bombed about" in her mobility scooter, her beloved poodle in the basket, sometimes leaving huge queues of traffic trailing in her wake.

Always busy she took an almost molecular interest in tennis and the Grand Prix. She was also a fan of antique fairs and auctions amassing some 30 cuckoo clocks in various stages of repair, and played golf.

She died on May 31 after a brief spell in Ealing House in Martham and then The Gables in Gorleston following a fall.

Hugh Sturzaker outside St George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth.Picture: James Bass

Hugh Sturzaker had know midwife Helen Jeffrey since 1980 when his fourth child was born and she came to check on mother and son. - Credit: James Bass

Former consultant surgeon Hugh Sturzaker described her as a dominant personality who kept working for as long as she did mainly because no-one really knew her real age, she had told him.

"I first met her in 1980 when she came to our house after our fourth son was born and she was a patient of mine many years later," he said.

"She was a very dominant person. At her 100th birthday party just before Christmas she looked absolutely immaculate in terms of her hair and her dress and she went from table to table talking to everyone, and in fact I did see her a few days before she died.

"In her day she would have delivered pretty much every child around here," he said.

Donations in her memory were made to the RSPCA.