‘I’ll never forget her smile’
From the very first day he spotted Janet out of his basement window, to the day she died, Cyril Titus says he was always struck by her ubiquitous smile.
They were living separate lives as neighbours in Clapham in the mid-70s. After a while, then art student Cyril, plucked up the courage to write a letter addressed to the ‘woman in number 45’.
Cyril, who became a bookbinder at the British Library, and teacher Janet married in 1985 and, when they discovered they couldn’t have children, adopted two children, John and Cherelle.
“She was just a really nice person. You just had to hear all the eulogies at the funeral and what people had to say about her. The first time I realised what a special person she was when I went to see her at the school she taught at, and I saw all the parents coming up to her and thanking her and seeing their joy in meeting her. You could see how they couldn’t wait to thank her. She gave a lot and never had a bad word to say about anyone.”
The couple shared a love of travelling, visiting numerous countries during their 37-year marriage. For Cyril, one trip in particular stands out. Soon after they’d adopted John and Cherelle, he was invited to Ecuador for work. He was reluctant to go but Janet persuaded him saying it was too good an opportunity to miss. Cyril went but always wanted to go back with Janet.
“When I retired, I made a plan to go to the Galapagos Islands and, in the pictures, you can see how happy Janet was and how pleased she was to be there to see the tortoises. She was overjoyed being there with all this wildlife at your fingertips. That was the highlight of all the holidays we ever went on.”
Janet and Cyril had five grandchildren who became the real apples of Janet’s eye in her retirement, or her ‘biggest joy’, as Cyril puts it. He fondly remembers her ever-inventive cooking too. “She was always doing something to please me and never made the same meal twice.”
It was during a trip to Rome in 2016 that Janet started to feel unwell. Tests revealed she had ovarian cancer. After surgery, treatment and numerous hospital stays – all the while being cared for by Cyril – Janet became so unwell she was admitted to St Christopher’s in August 2022 and died at the hospice four days later.
Cyril recalls Janet’s bravery and honesty in her final days. “She told me, ‘you must be happy for me because I am happy to go because I am in so much pain’.”
“I’ll never forget her smile. And the way she was with everybody. We had a lot of friends – mainly her friends!”
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