Janina Greta Gray

Janina’s Story (1941 – 2019)

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Jan was born on 1st September 1941.  Her mother, Greta Massey, was a teacher at Thames Road School in South Shore, Blackpool, and her father , Zbigniew Maslaczyk, was a pilot in the Polish Air Force who had managed to escape after Germany and Russia invaded.

Jan lived with her mum, two aunties, grandmother and great grandmother in a little terraced cottage at 41 Hawes Side Lane, Blackpool. When she was only 9 months old and her mother was expecting another child Jan’s father died in service. This must have been a great traumatic shock for a little baby. Six months later her brother Stefan (Bill) was born.

Jan grew up at Hawes Side Lane along with her brother.  It was a little house with no bathroom or electricity but had a beautiful long back garden that ran down to a big orchard and fields at the bottom. Next door was a stables for landau horses where Jan would often go. Maybe this was where she developed her lifelong love of horses. The children also played on a paddock owned by Box Bros and were allowed to play in the barns and help collecting the hens eggs.

Jan was always a very active, outgoing and brave girl. Her mother used to refer to her as “the chatterbox”. I think anybody who ever met her will understand why.  Her brother remembers Jan once walking up to a bigger boy who was picking on him and slapping him hard across the face.

She went to Waterloo School, Blackpool, and when the family moved went to Roseacre Juniors. She had a love of reading and also showed great talent for painting and pottery. She was the fastest girl runner in the school and could also beat most of the boys.  She won the sprint for the School in the Town’s Junior Sports Day. Once when the family visited Garstang Fair she came home with armsfull of prizes she had won for running and jumping.

When Jan was eight years old her mother took the family for a holiday to Low Dale Park Farm, near Satterthwaite, in the Lake District. They loved this farm so much, climbing hills and fishing in the beck, that they went back for several years till the children were teenagers.  Jan has passed this love of the outdoors on to her two sons, Andrew and Geoff.

When she was eleven Jan went to Thames Road senior school where she became the girl school sports captain. She had natural speed and her best events were sprinting, long jump and high jump. She joined a sports club and ran for Blackpool and represented Lancashire on several occasions.

She loved going hiking and would hitch hike up to the Lake District at weekends to stay in Youth Hostels with her friends.

981B1A6DB0FD46A29824035159193E97When she left school she went into nursing and on a training course for nannies at Princess Christian College in Windsor.  After graduating, and while still a teenager, she got a years assignment working for a top diplomat’s family in Washington USA.  While there she remembers meeting and having a long friendly chat with Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of the wartime President.

Jan returned from America and married Dave, with whom she had her two boys. Jan was very proud of all her family, Andrew and Geoff, her daughter in laws Maxine and Jill, her Grandchildren Lexi, Heather and Shaun, and Great Grandchildren Sylvia, George and Aszouri.

She worked for a time as a care assistant for disabled children at Barnardos in St Annes.  She used to help the children with artwork. While there Jan was the only person who could communicate with a little disabled boy who had severe autism.  She also worked in care homes for adults and the residents always looked forward to the shifts she was on. There was probably never a dull moment.

Jan had good network of friends in Blackpool that she would always tell stories about to her children and grandchildren and she always did a lot for the community. Most of her acquaintances will probably remember her pushing round her 2 little black pugs whom she loved dearly.

In last few years of her life she loved working in the garden at Watson Road Park with her friends, taking her dogs there and supporting the garden however she could. She was very proud of the garden.

She had an apartment in Guadamar, Spain, where she loved to go on holiday with friends and soak up the sun. Jan also used to love spending time with good friend Jack, both abroad and in Scotland.

In her final few months Jan celebrated her Birthday where she got to enjoy the afternoon with her Great grandchildren. She then fulfilled her dream of going to Rome and visiting the Vatican with her friend Kathy. Jan lived a great live and although she died unexpected she died alongside her little best companion dog, Taz, who meant everything to her.