‘I am a 73 year old widow and as a woman in today’s society I am still open to many possibilities and determined to help empower other widows to take massive steps forward in their lives after losing their life partners. As widows we have a voice, we have had to become strong independent women and in supporting one another we have achieved goals we never thought possible.’ Yvonne Vann, 2020
Founder of a club ‘nobody wants to join’ the irony is that Yvonne Vann ended up creating a network that widows across the country did want to belong to – for the fun, friendship and a mutual support they found within it.
The Jolly Dollies, or JDs as they are affectionately known as by their members, is a club for women who have lost their husbands and was born out of Yvonne’s own grief at losing her husband Vic.
After Vic died in 2007 from a rare neurological condition, Multi-system atrophy (MSA), by her own admission Yvonne felt lost and without purpose. Despite having a loving family and close friends, she often felt like the spare part, unable to talk through her grief with somebody who could truly understand.
It was a chance meeting over the garden gate with a local lady who had also recently lost her husband to MSA which changed things. Yvonne had met somebody who could empathize with what she was going through and after this impromptu chat the pair started to meet for a walk or glass of wine, over time inviting other local widows to join them.
From this sprang the inspiration for Yvonne to form The Jolly Dollies – so called as they needed a team name for a pub quiz that they had entered one time.
Born out of sad beginnings in 2013, today the Jolly Dollies is a vibrant, supportive and strong network of local groups across the UK from Kent on the South coast to Scotland in the North.
Yvonne was born and raised in Luton in 1947. She lived in Northampton and Milton Keynes before moving to Somerset with her two young children after her first marriage ended. It was here that she met Vic ‘the love of her life’ whilst they were both working at a solicitors office in Weston-Super-Mare. They lived together for many happy years, settling down and raising their children from their previous marriages as they embarked on a laughter filled second act of family life.
Yvonne’s energy for life and ability to turn a negative into a positive never ever left her.
Yvonne passed away after a very short battle with cancer at the age of 74 on June 14, 2021 with her family by her side.
For Yvonne, Vic was her first passion and from this came her second passion and her legacy – one that continues to thrive and grow and give hope for many women across the country – The Jolly Dollies.