Friday, September 3, 2010

Audrey Epton

May 24, 1925 - Sept. 2, 2010

At 14 years old, Audrey Issett was a typical English schoolgirl, albeit a faster runner and fiercer competitor than most. But she grew up quickly after the bombing of London began in 1939. Though the school days she barely tolerated continued, the track competitions she loved were gone instantly, while nights became a welter of black outs and exploding bombs.

Four years later, Audrey was enlisted in the British Army’s Women’s Auxilary, serving on the English coast as a plane spotter for anti-aircraft gunners. Regular dances with U.S. Army Air personnel provided occasional diversion for Audrey and her comrades. At one such event Audrey met American airman Bernard Epton, who had served as the liason with Audrey’s unit in setting up the dance. In the process, Capt. Epton made it definitively clear to his fellow officers that he would be the escort for the beautiful Brit named Audrey.

Though the war certainly accelerated what came next, Audrey and Bernie always seemed made for each other. Their impetuous and, perhaps, reckless decision in 1945 to marry and start a family turned out to be the best of many decisions they would make together.

After less than a year of marriage, Bernie rotated back to the states to begin training for the invasion of Japan. Audrey, still only 20 years old and pregnant with daughter Teri was left behind until she wrangled a spot on an Air Force transport to New York and made her way to Chicago. There she finally met her new in-laws and, after overcoming the language barrier created by Chicagoans trying to speak the king’s English, she joined Bernie in a life-long love affair in and with the city.

After Teri’s birth came Jeff, Mark and Dale in reasonably quick succession. And for the next 40 years, Audrey thrived as mother of four, friend of many, and as the wife of a politician who could be both charming and controversial. The highly charged Chicago mayoral election in 1983, which Bernie barely lost to Harold Washington, came near the end of their life together, but for Audrey and Bernie it was just one more episode in an eventful life. Though it was not the life she imagined growing up, Audrey was always quick to acknowledge that it was a life rich in love, excitement and beauty.

Together she and Bernie had seven grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, one great grandchild and two step-great grandchildren. Though she never remarried after Bernie’s death in 1987, Audrey found love and a long partnership with Robert Bentley, who passed away in 2007. Since Bob’s death, she has maintained a loving relationship with Bob’s son, David, his wife, Linda, and their two children.

“People should listen to their mothers more,” reflected older daughter, Teri, as the family gathered at Audrey’s bedside. And, it was evident from Mom’s expression as she lay there that she agreed—Teri should have listened to her mother more.

In death, Audrey is survived by her still growing extended family in the United States, brother Pete, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces in England, and numerous loving friends everywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Something made me want to check in on you this evening, Jeff. Oh, I am so sorry to read of your loss. But what a splendid tribute to your lovely mother. "Audrey" means strong and noble, and it sounds like she lived up to her name. My sincere condolences, Jeff. Margaret