'She kept smiling and for us that was important'
Claire Clifford writes in memory of her mum Félicité Dormer (1928-2015) and her gift in her Will to Alzheimer’s research at Warwick
My mum was born in Paris and grew up in a country at war: life was difficult, food was scarce, and when she was fifteen, her own mother died too. She was determined to succeed and was one of the first in the family to get her baccalaureate (similar to A-Levels). It was after the war when she met my Dad who was in the RAF stationed in Marseille.
They married in 1951 and she moved to the UK, living in London and then Birmingham. In 1971 she decided to take a French degree at Warwick. She succeeded with an impressive 2:1 (given that many exams were in English!) and then worked at Solihull College until she retired. She was known as an exceptional teacher who was much appreciated and always proud of her students’ achievements.
Mum was a bright, lively and lovely lady who was proud of her “Frenchness”. She was a hands-on grandmother to three grandchildren, and took joy in their swimming galas, dancing shows, tennis and football matches. Whilst in France in 2007, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Slowly but surely, her energy and spark drifted away. At first she knew things weren’t right, and she’d say “je suis une petite fille” – “I am a little girl”. But she still kept smiling and for us that was important.
I am so grateful to everyone who looked after her in her last few years. Everyone who met her always remembered her, and we will never forget the amazing woman who gave us such joyful, happy lives.
Mum was very proud to have attended Warwick and was delighted that my husband had also graduated there (Peter Clifford, BSc Hons Maths and Statistics 1974-1977).
She donated to help students here and frequently attended events. She really wanted to leave a gift in her Will too, it’s something we talked about a lot, and I’m glad that her gift will support Alzheimer’s research to help more families in future. I know we’re not alone in facing this disease, which affects the lives of so many.
I’m proud that Mum’s gift will be supporting such vital research at Warwick, where Professor Joanna Collingwood and her team are finding ways to diagnose dementia by examining metals in the brain. Often Alzheimer’s can be difficult to diagnose and this can mean families like mine deal with the consequences when it’s too late. Hopefully Joanna’s work will bring hope to more families in future.
Meanwhile I draw strength from my amazing memories of her; from the time she helped me de-frost an ancient freezer and we laughed about such long-gone-off food, to holding her grandchildren from the first time and just being so supportive and loving.
Thank you for taking some time out to read and share my memories of my amazing mum.”