Yvonne Vann - Our Tenth Ambassador

Becoming a widow through the loss of a beloved life partner must count as one of the most devastating experiences in life. So this week I want to pay tribute to someone who came up with a brilliant idea to help to ameliorate the pain of such a loss.

Our latest LFF Ambassador is Yvonne Vann, a widow herself, who five years ago at the age of 65, had the idea of starting a social networking group where widows could meet and enjoy time with other women who had also lost their partners. She called it The Jolly Dollies to convey that this was an opportunity for fun and enjoyment rather than focussing on the sadness of losing someone you love. It has been so successful that there are now over 200 groups around the UK with more than 2000 members.

I knew about The Jolly Dollies because one of our customers, Marilyn Floyd, is a member of her group in Kent.

Marilyn and I were born within 24 hours of each other on Christmas Day and Boxing Day 1947 and we are friends on Facebook despite never having met each other. I was so impressed with the way that Marilyn coped with the death from cancer of her beloved husband Mike that I asked her to write about it for a blog for LFF which you can read here.

This is what Marilyn told me about how and why she joined the JDs and the difference it has made to her life as a widow:

“Life was very difficult at the time and I felt that I would never recover any sort of life after Mike died. I heard about the JDs through the receptionist at my surgery so I decided to check them out online. I discovered that it was a group of widows of all ages, sadly some as young as their mid forties. It was £10 to join for the year and I was given contacts in my area. Luckily in Kent where I live it’s a very active group which has filled up my life. We have two very well attended monthly coffee mornings, one at Bluewater (shopping centre) and one at a garden centre, we have bowling, a monthly quiz night which is hilarious fun, social walks, holidays, monthly meals, a book club, fun and games afternoons and swap shops on Sundays. Each area has a contact to make sure all new members are welcomed and integrated into our social life. I’ve enjoyed myself so much that I’m now a contact and I have my Maidstone chicks to look after! Some of us are off in November for a 5 day ‘turkey and tinsel’ holiday and others are going to Italy in a few weeks.

My life would be very sadly different without all these lovely women in it. I have made some long standing friendships. It isn’t a substitute for having my gorgeous Mike back but boy does it go some way to staving off those dark days. There is an unofficial agreement that we don’t weep and wail about losing our husbands, but sometimes it can mean a great deal to know that I am with a group of women who truly understand the challenges of life as a widow. I am so glad I found the Jolly Dollies.”

You can see from this account just how much The Jolly Dollies has helped Marilyn, so I was keen to find out more about the woman who has helped to transform the experience of widowhood for so many women.

I do hope you enjoy my interview with Yvonne in which she tells us her amazing life story. Her life has fallen into two distinct parts - her childhood and first marriage at 19 years of age were very challenging and often unhappy but she found the strength to escape to a new life with her two children. The second half of Yvonne’s life was very much happier and filled with love, but was also challenging as it led to widowhood at age 60. 

I admire Yvonne enormously and I do hope that you agree that she makes a very worthy ambassador for Look Fabulous Forever.