Tribute: Margaret Coles

  |  Published: Apr 1st 2016

The Coles family are sad to announce that Margaret Cecelia Coles passed away peacefully in Cherry Trees residential home on Christmas Eve 2015, aged 84.

Margaret was a remarkable woman who lived a remarkable life and brought love and joy to all who knew her. She will be remembered as a wife (twice), a widow (twice), mother to 6 and grandmother to 13. At heart a natural communicator, teacher and artist, Margaret was a beautiful, intelligent, wise, unconventional, independent, creative, colourful, free-spirited and resilient woman who experienced more than her fair share of ups and downs. If life can be likened to a rollercoaster, then Margaret’s life was a proper “Big Dipper” with the very highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  

Margaret’s formative years were in West London. Born in Gunnersbury in September 1931, Margaret Cecelia Butler was the youngest member in a complex family structure with a brother, a half-sister and brother and two step-sisters. After school she worked as a secretary to the Board of Directors at J Lyons in Hammersmith before enrolling for teacher training at Digby Stuart College in Roehampton. A reference from the Principal reads: “Art is her Special Field of Study and Margaret has done some interesting work in this subject…. She will be a valuable member of staff and a good influence in a school”. Indeed she was - as an Infant Teacher at Sheringdale School in Southfields, between 1953 and 1957.  

In April 1957, Margaret married Edward Coles in Chiswick and it was not long before her life took a different direction as a very full-time mother! Ted and Margaret moved out of London to Wendover in 1959 with two young children. Family life was hectic and a further four children arrived with all six under the age of ten at one point! Margaret’s busy, but relatively normal existence crashed to an end with the death of Ted, in 1972.

As her family grew up in the 1970s and 80s the home in Manor Crescent was the scene of many teenage gatherings. Margaret had her own particular means of bringing these events to a close – usually by hoovering around the various bodies dozing on the lounge floor followed by a big fry up to send people on their way at dawn! Margaret had great inner strength and brought up her six children by herself. She saw them off to University, move away and settle down, develop careers, produce grandchildren and move through their own lives. 

Having lived in Wendover for well over 50 years Margaret became a very well-known and well-loved member of the wider village community.  

Try as you might, some of you may not be able to forget her involvement in the more social activities of the local sports clubs - dancing on the tables at a Football Club ‘do’ at the Spinning Wheel or serving white onion sauce sandwiches to the Aylesbury West Indians cricket side. Several generations of school children will remember her as a supply teacher who helped them to learn to read. Margaret’s underlying passion and talent, however, was art.  At one time a very active member of Wendover Art Club, her enthusiasm ebbed and flowed over the years, but was reinvigorated by a printing course in later life at Amersham College.  Her abilities were recognised in 1993 when one of her works was exhibited by the British Society of Women Artists in Central Hall, Westminster. Her output came in explosive bursts and the resultant portfolio of work, whilst sometimes a little hard for others to interpret and for her to share, is absolutely amazing in its talent, breadth and depth – a wide variety of media and subject matter – trees, abstract, religious, cityscapes. Her ability to appreciate and discuss art remained with her until the end. 
Many years ago a rumour of Margaret’s death spread around the village, prematurely, and she survived a multitude of health challenges in her long and eventful life. Her greatest fight was against cycles of what is now known as bi-polar disorder with long episodes of extreme highs and lows. The family are very grateful to all who got Margaret through her darkest days and learned to accept the extraordinarily creative outbursts and sometimes outrageous energy of her highs. In memory of Margaret, donations were given to help the work of MIND – the mental health charity,

Mauve and white tulips were chosen for her funeral  at St. Anne’s - in memory of Edward too as the garden at Manor Crescent came into bloom each spring with bulbs carefully brought back from his business trips to Amsterdam. Mauve and white because they were colours Margaret so suited and so often wore.  But what clinched it for the family was when Pippa the florist said, “the trouble with tulips is that once in water or oasis they can behave ‘outrageously’”. Just perfect then. 

Margaret was laid to rest in St Mary’s where she is reunited in a grave with Ted. The Order of Service at her funeral included her own water colour of this final resting place which she called “Journey’s End”. In time, the family will exhibit Margaret’s art work – please do come and share in this wonderful legacy. of an extraordinary life.

Margaret Coles
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