Students Staff

30 May 2013

Obituary for Marion Lilley

Filed under: People pages — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 2:39 pm

Marion Lilley, who helped establish the University’s first playgroup, died at the age of 90 on Sunday 28 April.

Marion was the wife of John Lilley, the University’s first Maintenance Officer.  As a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the war, Marion became one of the RAF’s very first radar operators in 1940, and was stationed in the Orkneys, helping in the defence of Scapa Flow against German bombing attacks.  After marrying John in 1950, she travelled widely around the world, and lived in several overseas stations while he was serving in the Royal Engineers; when he retired, they came to Colchester in 1966 for him to take up his University appointment.

As a qualified Nursery Nurse before the War, Marion had set up and run nursery or playgroup facilities at several of John’s Army stations, and, early in her time in Colchester, she was approached for advice and assistance in setting up a group to care for the young children of staff and students at Wivenhoe Park.  In late 1966, ‘The University Playgroup’ opened its doors – on the strict understanding that it had to be completely independent and entirely self-funded.  It began life in a rather dark and dismal vacant room on the ground floor of the Physics Building, close to the Squash Courts. The group’s numbers very quickly outgrew that room, and its success was recognised by a move into the ‘Social Area’ of the Sports Pavilion on the playing fields.

Ever-increasing numbers however, soon necessitated ever larger premises, and, when the Site hut (erected in 1964 for the site-based staff of the architects and engineers developing the University’s original facilities) fell vacant in the early 1970s, the Playgroup was able to move into that, and continue its expansion.  Almost 50 years later, from that small beginning, has developed today’s very successful University of Essex Day Nursery.

In addition to her Nursery Nurse training and qualifications, Marion was also qualified in the Montessori method of teaching, and the children who came under her care (and that of the dedicated staff who assisted her) benefited greatly and developed quickly in the happy and relaxed atmosphere. After managing the group for more than ten years, and with almost one hundred children enrolled, Marion handed over to Joan Brighton and spent her remaining years devoting her time and energy to her home and family.

She leaves her husband John, their three sons and their families to mourn her passing. She will be greatly missed and was respected and loved by the hundreds of children who came under her care, by their parents, by her own family and by her many, many friends. She had a special place in their hearts.

Obituary submitted by John A. Lilley

One response to “Obituary for Marion Lilley”

  1. Trevor James says:

    May I offer my condolences to Marion’s family? I knew Marion and her family when I was a pupil at Philip Morant School in Colchester. She was a lovely person, always extremely polite and very caring. I’m sure she’ll have left a void in that family that time alone will help repair but never completely remove.

    Trevor James

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