Obituary: Katie Jaffa

Journalist Kathleen (Katie) Marie Theresa Jaffa died on 13 March in Kingston Hospital aged 96. Her funeral was held at St Joseph's Church, New Malden on 24 March. As a Lay Carmelite her body was taken to Aylesford Priory in Kent for a prayer service led by the Carmelites at the Shrine of Our Lady and St Simon Stock before burial in Aylesford village cemetery in full Carmelite habit.

Formerly Kitty Mayer, she was born on 7 March 1913. in Bromley, Kent of Irish, English and German descent. The family soon moved to Highbury and then in the 1920s to New Malden where she spent the rest of her life until due to increasing frailty, she went into care in December 2007 at Newent House Residential Home, Surbiton.

Her father was a printer for the Daily Express and eventually became editor. Kitty, as she was known to the family, followed into journalism working on various womens' magazines .including Pegs Paper and the Ladies' Companion.

In 1939, on the outbreak of war, she worked in Intelligence with the Americans at the embassy in Grosvenor Square; at one time preparing propaganda leaflets to be dropped over occupied France.

Following the war she was employed by Reuters for several years on the main news desk, until all the male staff were demobbed when she had to relinquish her job to a man. These were the days before equal opportunities. She then worked for Chambers'Encyclopaedia as sub-editor and from 1950-1957 became secretary to eight editors at Picture Post including Ted Castle, husband of Labour MP Barbara Castle. Many prominent reporters were colleagues: Fife Robertson, Robert Kee, Chris Brasher and Alan Whicker among them.

In 1965, she joined Womens' Realm, becoming fiction editor. She frequently wrote under the pseudonym of Frances O'Flaherty, taking her fathers' first name and her Irish maternal grandmothers' surname in writing with great humour about the day to day trials of the "woman next door".

In 1972 she married Harold Jaffa, a leading columnist on the Daily Express, at Aylesford Priory with the former Prior, Fr Frances Kemsley, as altar server. In addition to their New Malden home they had a flat overlooking Kensington Gardens. He died after only four years of marriage.

To her friends she was known as Katie and was a woman of great religious faith. She was a committed Roman Catholic, following her conversion as a young woman and from 1955 became a member of the Third Order of the Order of Carmelites. She was one of the many creative people that the charismatic
Fr Malachy Lynch gathered around him in the re-building of Aylesford Priory. She wrote articles for various Catholic publications about Carmelite events for many years including Westminster Record.

Very Reverend Wilfrid McGreal, Provincial of the British Order of Carmelites said he had known her since 1964 and that "she lived in the presence of God and bought the presence of God to those she encountered". She was a familiar figure with Aylesford Tours and Pilgrimages until three years before her death, an indefatigable character with a great sense of fun who valued her friends and loved meeting new people. Until she was 92 she would swim each summer going by train to different Sussex coast resorts each week.

She was also closely involved with Westminster Cathedral and was a reader there for nearly thirty years and from 1992 was an oblate of the Cathedral.

A fulsome tribute was read at the funeral from Monsignor Mark Langhan, the former Cathedral administrator, now working in a senior post at the Vatican at the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. He described her as "one of the most familiar and beloved of our a person she was
unfailingly positive and upbeat. She encouraged others and always found the best in them.........she not only exemplified the Christian virtues but was also a tower of strength to those who were tempted to give in to illness, age or weariness. Her voice was firm but gentle,her smile radiant and her laugh

She was a member of the Catholic Poetry Society and the oldest member of The Keys, the Catholic Writers Guild and it's feminine counterpart The Quills until Mgr Bruce Kent merged the two into one guild.

A familiar face at St Ethelreda's, Ely Place where the Guild met, Fr Kit Cunningham, former editor of the Westminster Record and Guild chaplain threw a 90th birthday party for her there. He recalls that she was always comfortable to be with, " a remarkable woman - an original - and very, very funny....a real breath of fresh air."

Katie was still writing articles and poetry at 90 .She was also a founder member of the committee for the Catholic Woman of the Year Luncheon from 1968.

An accomplished pianist, she was still able to play without music on many occasions at the home and for the last time publicly on 1 February in the presence of the Mayor of Kingston upon Thames and MP Ed Davey at a party for the elderly of the borough organised by St Raphael's church at St Joseph's
school, Fairfield, Kingston.

A woman of great humility ,with a twinkle in her eye and a ready wit who until a few weeks before she died enjoyed her trade mark glass of whisky and the occasional red wine. She will be greatly missed by her many friends.

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