Sue Jacobs – A Woman of Worth

by Mike Jacobs

If you wanted to visualise the sort of person whose sympathetic nature endeared herself to everyone she met, somebody like Sue would immediately spring to mind. Sue was a kind and caring person, who always put the needs of others before her own. She was an amazing wife, and a wonderful mother and grandmother, and she adored her family. Even in her latter years, when she suffered such dreadful ill-health, her sunny disposition shone through and she managed to rise above her disabilities.

The Early Years

Susan Marilyn Goldring was born in London on 30th October 1945, just a month or so after the end of World War II. Her parents, Ben and Anna, had met in an air-raid shelter a few years earlier, had married, and set up home in an apartment in Stamford Hill. Miraculously, they escaped death by hiding under their iron bedstead during a subsequent air-raid when their home received a direct hit from a Luftwaffe bomb. Young Susan, or Sue as she was known by then, had escaped death when, at the age of seven, she was hit by a lorry whilst running across the road. She sustained a serious head injury but, against all the odds, pulled through and within a few days – to the astonishment of her doctors – was running around the hospital ward. Unfortunately, the lorry was a write-off!

She was a bright girl and, having passed her 11+ examination, she won a place at the highly prized Skinners’ Company’s School for Girls in Stamford Hill. When she left school, she initially worked in the buying office of Marks & Spencer. Her next job, at Norwood, the Jewish orphanage, which became part of The Jewish Welfare Board, set Sue on her lifelong career in social work. After a year out in Israel she returned to Norwood where she specialised in adoption. One of her work-colleagues was a woman called Hetty Pallet and that acquaintance was to be a significant factor in determining the course of Sue’s future life.

Love and Marriage

Hetty Pallet’s daughter, Michelle, was married to Jeffrey Kaufman who worked with his father as a market-trader in Leicester. I became close friends with Jeffrey as we were both Freemasons and travelled to London together for Lodge of Instruction. Michelle would often come with to spend the evening with her mother. On one occasion, when collecting Michelle from her mother’s, Jeffrey told me that Hetty had someone she wanted me to meet… and there, sitting in Hetty Pallet’s kitchen, was Sue. Sue looked stunning and I was immediately attracted to her but in those days, I was so shy that I didn’t have the courage ask her out. I got Michelle to do the dirty work for me, and the upshot was that Sue came to Leicester the following weekend and I took her to The Younger JNF Ball, which took place at The Grand Hotel with Bob Monkhouse as the cabaret artist. We got engaged at the Maccabi Valentine’s dance in February 1971 and were married the following October. Sue became a part of our then, vibrant, young Jewish community as an active member of the Maccabi Council of Patrons, Group 72 and WIZO to name a few.

We began our married life in Barnstaple Road in Evington. Joanna was born in 1972, just a month before my dad passed away. We then moved to Carisbrooke Road to be nearer to my mum, who by then had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and David was born in 1974. Just before we moved to Knighton Park Road in 1977, our family was completed with the birth of Emma, my mum having sadly passed away two years previously.

Sue’s hospitality was legendary: her home was always full of guests and she was renowned for cooking enough to feed the Leicestershire regiment. She was a great cook and as a typical Jewish mother, when she asked if you wanted a second helping she did not really listen to the answer: she just served up even more the second time around!

As well as being a devoted wife and mother, Sue had a successful career as a social worker with Leicestershire County Council specialising in adoption. She was highly thought-of in the department and at the age of forty, they sponsored her to study for a Masters Degree in Social Work at The University of Leicester. She studied for her Masters whilst bringing up her family and planning David’s Bar mitzvah before returning to work and pioneering inter-country adoptions, which at that time were an unknown specialism.

Leicester Jewish Community Care

Sue was chair of Leicester Jewish Community Care for over 25 years, during which time she applied her specialist knowledge of social work for the benefit of the many elderly and needy members of the community. She always considered Leicester Jewish Community Care to be her special domain and, apart from attending to the welfare of her clients, along with her committee she devoted endless hours to arranging the delivery of Yomtov gifts every Pesach and Rosh Hashanah. She was also instrumental in setting up the Shalom Club day centre for the elderly and in recent years she hosted a women’s weekly shiur in our home.

When Sue was in her early 50’s, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo surgery and a gruelling course of chemo and radiotherapy. Thankfully, she survived these trials and tribulations but she was left with severe lymphoedema which greatly affected her mobility. Her health continued to deteriorate and she had to take early retirement from work.

In 2011 she suffered a series of falls and it was found that she had a disc pressing on her spinal column. Despite spinal surgery, she never really walked again and spent the rest of her life – almost ten years – confined to a wheelchair. Her life changed dramatically: she needed carers twice-daily, a wet room, adapted vehicles and widened doorways, which took quite a battering from her power-wheelchair. She never was the best of drivers!

At the beginning of 2019, the flying fickle finger of fate struck again and Sue learned that her breast cancer had recurred. By the time it was diagnosed, it had already spread to her lung and her bones. This was a battle that Sue could not win. Nevertheless, she bore her affliction with courage and dignity and tried to carry on as best she could.

Despite all of her disabilities and limitations, Sue continued to be involved in Leicester Jewish Community Care and she also co-ordinated the women’s Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish Burial Society. In the wider community, she served as a well-respected member on The Equality Advisory Group and the Clinical Ethics committees of the Leicester Hospitals Trust.

Sue’s ambition in life was to see all her children married and to have grandchildren. Thankfully, she lived to see this and to enjoy her ten grandchildren. She greatly treasured the time spent with her children and grandchildren and was fortunate to have a short time with them again when the first national Covid lockdown was lifted.

I was so fortunate to have Sue as my wife, my best friend and my soulmate for almost fifty years. From the first time Sue and I met, we were seldom apart for more than a few days: we did everything together; we enjoyed the same things and, most importantly, we rejoiced in each-other’s company.