'They lived life to the fullest' is a cliche that gets used far too often when referring to the deceased at funerals. However in the case of my half cousin Angela Lee this was a stone cold fact.
Born in the small but beautiful village of Burley-in-Wharfedale she grew up alongside her cousin Pauline, my mother.
Fearless and mischievous, tales from her childhood included removing the sherbert from lemon bon-bons in her grandfathers shop and replacing it with salt and a visit to a chimp's tea party at the zoo ended with her climbing into the enclosure, pulling up a chair and joining the chimps for tea.
As she grew up she enrolled in secretarial college and worked for the local health authority where she met her lifelong friend Anne. They both shared a taste for adventure and started travelling to foreign countries. This was in the days when most people in the UK spent their holidays at the nearest seaside resort and foreign travel was for James Bond only.
They visited Benidorm when it was still a fishing village and not the mega resort full of pissed-up English that it is today. During her lifetime she has been all over the world, Thailand, Brazil China, Turkey to name but a few of the places she has seen.
She married Bob Lee in 1971 and they had two beautiful daughters, Cherie and Collette who shared their mothers love for life and their fathers easy going charm and are raising their own wonderful families.
When she was 50 she enrolled in a degree course in Tourism Management which took her to Massachusetts and Carolina in the US. She was the oldest person on the course but her energy and ability to drink most people under the table earned her the positions of both mother figure and party animal.
Tragically Bob was struck with dementia in his fifties and his health deteriorated over the years but Angela cared for him until the very end. Then, in her sixties and only three years before her own death she packed up her rucksack and headed off on her own to Vietnam and Cambodia, just for the hell of it.
She used to take her grandson Jack to concerts including Dizzee Rascal and
Tinchy Stryder and at one point even managed to accidentally get involved in a Gay Pride Parade. She once took him to New York where they fought through a blizzard so Jack could see the New York Mets play. Most people would do this sort of thing to try and look young or cool but Angela didn't think like that.
She was a strong willed, independent woman without all the feminist posturing, she was brilliantly funny, she never boasted about her achievements. She just got on and did things that most of us never pluck up the courage to do and she did it all with an effortless cool and an open, laid back personality that put everyone who met her at ease.
I am proud that she was my Godmother and even though I am not religious I still have the Bible she bought me for my first birthday. I feel privileged for knowing her as she made the most of life and never took herself too seriously. She was truly remarkable and would have clouted me around the head for calling her that.
Goodbye Angela, we all love you.