To her family, Jean Fray was an adored mother, wife and daughter who can never be replaced. To the children at Arundel Court Primary School she was a much-loved and kindly librarian who inspired many a child’s love of reading.
But tragically Jean’s life was cut short at just 60 when she suffered a massive stroke on her daughter Marcia Holmes’ wedding day in 2017.
Her death left the family devastated but out of their loss siblings Marcia, Bethany Foley and Marvin Foley, from Portsmouth, have ensured other families will have the kind of support they received in the wake of their mother’s death.
Because, almost unbelievably, Marvin, 35, Marcia, 32, and Bethany, 27 suffered even more devastation when their grandmother, Jean’s mother, had a stroke and died on the day of her daughter’s funeral.
Together the siblings have raised almost £30,000 for Stroke Association and were honoured for their work with a Life After Stroke Award.
Marvin says: ‘Our mother was the kindest person we ever knew. She was full of love and such an inspiring and supportive mother to us all.
‘She was generous and thoughtful, and valued experiences and time over material possessions.
‘Gifts would always involve an activity, be it a day out, a lunch, anything that would involve spending time with us all.’
Bethany said: ‘She was fun, and loved music and dancing.
‘She would join us at concerts and festivals, and even joined Marcia’s hen weekend a month before her wedding. Not a day goes by where we don’t think about mum – she was a truly remarkable lady.
‘To also lose our grandmother was just heart-breaking, as a family we knew we had to do something in tribute of both these incredible women.’
Marcia, who wed in a beautiful ceremony at Berkeley Castle in the Cotswolds, said her mother appeared fit and well during the service. And then tragedy struck.
‘Mum came with me when I found my dress, she came to all the dress fittings. She was just beaming the whole time.
‘The morning (of the wedding) was just perfect, we were having our hair and make-up done together. It was the dream last day. Bethany always says “mum died of happiness”.’
In order to honour their beloved mother and grandmother, Marvin, Bethany and their sister Marcia, threw themselves into raising awareness and money for the Stroke Association.
The family took part in Simplyhealth’s Great South Run earlier in October, and they said they knew their mother would be waiting for them in spirit at the finish line.
They have received enormous support from family, friends and colleagues who have helped to raise money through other events and activities.
They were presented with their award by Warwick Davis and Stephen K Amos at the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Awards at the Landmark hotel in London
Marvin said: ‘We feel proud of everything we’ve achieved so far, and absolutely over the moon to win the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Award for our fundraising.
‘Throughout it all we’ve channelled our mother, and tried to make something positive come out of what has been such a sad time for us all.’
Tammy Angus, regional fundraiser at the Stroke Association who nominated Marvin, Bethany and Marcia for their award, said: ‘I nominated Marvin, Bethany and Marcia because their strength, dedication and passion.
‘Their devotion for the awareness of stroke prevention has been inspirational for us as a charity to watch over the past year.
‘Marvin, Bethany and Marcia have worked so hard to raise funds to help conquer stroke.
‘The scale of their ambition and what they have achieved is truly remarkable.
‘Thanks to their passion for raising money, much needed funds will make a real difference to helping people affected by stroke and supporting vital stroke research.’
Marvin, Bethany and Marcia are also supporting the Stroke Association’s Christmas appeal, ‘I am more than my stroke’.
The appeal raises money so the charity can help more stroke survivors live with the impact of their stroke because it may have changed their lives but it doesn’t need to define who they are as a person.
Watch a short video about Marvin, Bethany and Marcia’s story at portsmouth.co.uk/lifestyle.
Stroke - what you need to know
FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
TIME to call 999.
The Stroke Association works to prevent stroke, and to support everyone touched by stroke and fund research.
Go to stroke.org.uk/iammore.