Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Tribute to a Lady

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Please press play in the box above to listen to the music I have selected to memorialize my grandmother.

Today, the world lost a great citizen; Mexico lost a Grand Dame; and I lost my grandmother, Lady Dolores Francis Hadow.

Lola (or Lolita), as she was known to her friends and Ata, as she was known to her grandchildren, was born in New York City on March 23, 1917. Her parents (both American) were living in Mexico, where her father had a mining and lumber business. Soon after she was born, my great grandparents returned to Mexico with Lolita in tow. Aside from her days in boarding school and college, Lola never lived in the United States again.

In 1939, Lola married my grandfather, Joseph Turner, in Mexico City. Two years later, my dad, Michael, was born, and eight years after that, my aunt, Gay, came along. Grandad, a Mexican national by birth, had duel citizenship with England and served in the Canadian Army during World War II. My father's first international trip was in 1944, when he and Ata flew up to New York to visit my grandfather during one of his leaves. They went on a DC-3, which was a 2-engine, 21 passenger plane that had 2 wheels under the wings and a little one under the tail. The plane cruised at about 160-170 MPH and took two full days to get from Mexico City to New York.

In 1954, Lola and Joe divorced, and a couple of years later, Lola married Michael Hadow, a British diplomat, in London. During their years together, Michael served in the Foreign Office in London, was Minister in the British Embassy in Paris, and served terms as British Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Israel and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1972, Michael was knighted for his services in the Foreign Office and Lola became Lady Hadow. Michael and Lola divorced a few years later, and Lola returned to Mexico to live with her daughter, Gay (whom we call "Tia").

This was when I got to know her.

I loved my grandmother deeply. Even as a child, Ata always treated me like an adult. I don't remember her ever using the grandparental "baby voice" with me, and I certainly don't remember her ever really scolding me - (which is probably why, as a kid, I loved hanging out with her so much). I don't recall there ever being many toys for us to play with at her house, but she did keep three notebooks (one for me and each of my brothers) in a drawer next to a box of coloured pencils. On Sunday afternoons, I would sit in her living room and colour, while she and Tia visited with my parents. After I'd get bored with colouring, I'd wander around the house, looking at all the black and white photographs hanging on the walls.

No, Ata was not your typical grandmother. I thought of her more as a friend, a person I loved talking to and spending time with. I was fascinated with her life in Europe, the Middle East and South America. She was my living, breathing (and equally as beautiful) Ingrid Bergman. Despite my incessant questions and fascination with her life - the places she'd lived, the things she'd seen, the people she'd met - she rarely spoke of them unless asked. And when she did, it was with an almost passive voice - as if she could not understand what all the fuss was about.

Lolita loved animals, especially dogs, and had the most beautiful smile and exquisite hands. She loved watching PBS, especially "All Creatures Great and Small" and the Agatha Christie "Poirot" series. She had a very close circle of friends in Mexico, getting together often for "Ladies' Lunches", which were never complete without the standard glass of sherry or tequila (or both). She was always impeccably dressed and accessorised, even when she was dressed down, and her beautiful, long nails were always painted a light rose. Lolita had a beauty mark above her lip, which she accented with a sharp eyeliner - something I always thought was so glamorous, and even tried out once or twice myself (with little success).

I deeply regret that in the last few years of her life, Ata and I didn't see each other very much. Living so far away, with a full time job and two children made it very hard for us to visit, especially to a place like Mexico City. And Ata's health made it difficult for her to travel long distances. I'm grateful though, that although she never met my son, she did meet my daughter (whose original due date, ironically, was March 23rd- Ata's birthday). I spoke to her often, though in hindsight, not often enough. What I wouldn't give to hear her voice again.

Ata died peacefully in her sleep at 8:40 AM on April 15 2010, having spoken to Dad over the phone a few hours earlier, and with Tia by her side. My deepest condolences to Lola's friends for their loss of a great companion, to my children for not having had the opportunity to get to know my incredible grandmother, and especially, to Dad and Gay, for the loss of their beautiful, loving and devoted mother.

Godspeed, Ata. I love you.


  1. Dear Elizabeth,
    A very fine tribute indeed! Although, I think she would wonder why all the fuss! She was a truly elegant lady in all ways.
    However, I might point out that although she treated you well and as a grown up that you are, there were moments when both your father and I got a sterner reaction...which we deserved, every time. I got off easy as I was a guest,and always blamed your father. One of my fondest memories was sitting with her on her bed a few years ago watching the Rose bowl on New Years day, while we all kept your father running for more food beer etc.
    She will be missed, but the joy of having known her will leave great memories
    Jamie Burton

  2. Reading your words touch my soul, Elizabeth. I first met Lola & Gay when they flew to Fort Worth from Tel Aviv for your parents' wedding and what a meeting it was! They were so kind to a young woman from a small town in Texas and they always remained so, opening their lives to me as the years passed by. My dear father was in Europe for 3 years during WW II and he had given me a passion to know the world just from looking at his pictures. These 2 women fanned the flames with their grand stories and I was on my way. When I was blessed to have my dreams come true and in a job that kept me on international trips, they were resettled in the DF from BA. Not a trip went by that I didn't include time in their wonderful home, usually with late nights of great conversation, good food, and strong drinks. Or long lunches at the San Angel Inn .... Those memories will stay with me for a lifetime. They hosted my parents, my sister, more than 1 husband (!), dear friends .... and always with such gracious hospitality. Lola was truly a Great Dame and her like will not be seen again. I grieve for all who loved her and especially for dear Gay and the lovely Michael. What a heritage!

    Always with love,
    Julie Hendren
    Marfa, Texas and Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  3. A wonderful tribute,indeed.Some of my fondest memories of Lolita were formed over a bridge table in the 1990s with Gay and Georgina Ward Tritton whiling a Saturday(sometimes a Sunday) afternoon away. Lolita was a patient, low-key player, never upset when her partner erred. It was a fine, relaxing time far removed from the chaos of a newspaper office! My sympathetic thoughts go out to Mike and particularly Gay,who attended Lolita to the end.
    Patricia Nelson
    Newton, Kansas

  4. Lovely tribute.
    I miss her already!
    Much love to you all,
    Cuernavaca, Morelos

  5. Such a beautiful tribute, Liz. Thank you. She was a great lady and, as you said, she would be saying "What's all the fuss about".... modest, to the end.
    She is and will be sorely missed.
    With love, always,

  6. Gavin Shorto sent Mike the following email on 4/16/10:

    Oh, Mike, I am so sorry. It's the hardest thing in the world to lose a mother, and especially the hardest when it's a really special mother such as yours....or mine. All the good things in one's character are put there by mothers, and when they die, it's like losing arms and legs.

    The sense of loss never goes away. It fades, and mellows into an odd presence which, after a while, is more rewarding than painful... I hope you are able to get to that stage as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

    The blog was wonderful. Brimming with love.

    Have courage, Mike. My love and very best wishes to you.

    Please tell Elizabeth how much I admired her handiwork.


  7. That was beautiful, Elizabeth. I am sure that some of that beauty within you is a legacy from Lolita (Lady H.). May her spirit live within you and yours for many, many years. I have known her all of my life, and loved her very much. She was one of the few people who understood me as a child and recognized my value. You can’t imagine how much her love meant to me. For Lady H. I believe that what she is leaving behind (her blazing trail through life) will blossom through her descendants and outgrow the seeds she planted during her, all too short, existence in our lives. Of such is human frailty, may we be wiser in December that we were in January for the wisdom and love that others, such as Lolita, have shared with us.

    Eduardo (Eddie) Robson
    Miami & Mexico City

  8. Wow, E... what an incredible tribe to your Ata. I'm in tears from your love and passion for your grandma.

  9. Hi Liz,
    I had the honor of reading this a shortly after you wrote it and I had momma love read it too. You did a lovely job writting about your grandmother. I only met her once, but I found her to be such an elegant lady. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your memories with us and again I am truly sorry for your loss.

    God Speed to you dear SIL

  10. Dear Elizabeth,
    What a beautiful tribut you have written for a truely wonderful lady. I have many fond memories of Lola, one of which was just prior to your wedding when she,Gay and myself were tying ribbons around pairs of "maracas", many laughs were had around this activity (and maybe some tequilas too)!!

    My love and thoughts go out to you all at this time and especially to Gay and Mike who were both so involved in her life. Thank you Elizabeth for sharing.
    With love, Jane

  11. It is so hard to say goodbye from far away, apart from family and friends who all knew and loved Ata. She meant so many things to each one of us, her children, grandchildren, and friends who were more like family than anything else. She was so strong in poise and fortitude, and carried herself with such dignity and grace, that I cannot help feel an enormous emptiness at her loss.

    Gone now was a Lady who traveled the world, lived in exotic, far-away places, and was eyewitness to many global events that leave us wondering and yearning for more tales and stories. I remember meeting Ruth Dayan in Ata’s living room and, already knowing who she and her famous husband were, could only gaze in amazement not only at her, but Ata too.

    I have been fortunate to have visited many of the countries around the world and no matter where I went, I could always count on Ata (and Tía too) to be able to recommend a good restaurant, talk about an old friend they may have had there, or tell me where to go and what to see. From London to Buenos Aires, to Havana, she could always give me a feel of wherever I was going and the different cultures. That I will certainly miss, the “olden days”, as my beautiful daughter Emma would say.

    Ata met Emma when she was only 4 and above all, I wish that they had known each other better. As her family and friends, we can and do honor Ata’s life, spirit, strength, and experiences. We continue her legacy and our own children will live her life through each of us.

    She once told me that she believed in the miracle of life and that through our passing our bodies and spirits help and guide those that come after us. She said that she knew that physical life wasn’t forever and that one day she was not going to be here anymore. That was many years ago, and although that sad day has come, I can only say that I loved her very much, she guided and helped me at every step of my life, and I will miss her more than these short words can say.