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Another chapter in Nan's inspiring story

News | Published:

  • Jersey Occupation Diary author celebrates her 100th birthday with her family
  • Nan du Feu-Cooper (née Le Ruez) reached her century on Tuesday
  • Her 93-year-old sister Joyce, who travelled from Jersey for the birthday

A WOMAN whose Occupation diary was published in 1994 – the catalyst for a remarkable love story which attracted national publicity – has this week been celebrating her 100th birthday.

Nan du Feu-Cooper (née Le Ruez) reached her century on Tuesday and, as well as being delighted to receive a congratulatory card from the Queen, marked the occasion with a party at the Westerley Christian Care Home in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, where she now lives.

She was joined by her 93-year-old sister Joyce, who travelled from Jersey for the birthday, her sons David, Christopher, Peter and John, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and several other members of the family.

Nan on her marriage to Methodist minister Alfred du Feu

Nan, who is having another party for 50 friends today, said that she had had 'a very busy day and a very lovely day'.

'I welcomed all my family and friends,' she said.

'It was so nice to see so many of my relatives.

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'There was one little great-grand-daughter that I hadn't seen before.

'And I received about 80 birthday cards. I could not believe it.'

Asked what she thought was the secret to longevity, she replied: 'I really think it's down to hard work and keeping occupied – except when you get to be about 100, when it's a bit more difficult!'

As well as being devoted to her family, Nan has always led an active life, being a passionate gardener (twice being crowned Lincolnshire's Compost Queen), a writer and a Methodist lay preacher for 77 years.

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'I absolutely love gardening,' she said. 'I always did – I loved poking into the ground and was always happy doing the gardening.'

Nan was engaged to Methodist minister Alfred du Feu before the start of the Occupation, but they were separated when he was given missionary work in Nigeria, while she stayed to help on the farm – Homestead, St Peter – where she and her siblings were brought up.

She said that her faith had helped her greatly at this time as well as at other difficult times in her life.

Nan also kept herself busy, running a small school at Homestead and training to become a lay preacher.

Like others, she travelled everywhere by bicycle and she would think nothing of cycling from one end of the Island to the other to take a service.

Nan was joined for her birthday by sons John, David, Christopher and Peter

She also kept a record of events in a diary carefully hidden from the Germans and which would later be published, including her sister Joyce's original illustrations.

After five long years, Nan's prayers were answered and with the Liberation came her reunion with Alfred.

The couple went on to enjoy a long and happy marriage bringing up their four boys in the various towns in the south-west of England to which Alfred was posted.

Nan married Jimmy Cooper when she was 89 and he was 82. Their love story caught the imagination of the national media

Nan continued to be active in the church during this time and after the couple retired to Spalding in Lincolnshire in 1979.

She was also often invited to give talks about the Occupation to various groups in Lincolnshire and, sometimes, further afield.

Sadly, Alfred died suddenly in 1985.

It was some years later that the diary she had kept during the Occupation was unearthed and she was persuaded that it might be of interest.

The book Jersey Occupation Diary was first published in 2004 but has since been reprinted and updated, and only last weekend Nan was at two book signings for a special 40s event held in the town where she lives.

As she re-read her entries in the diary in the early 2000s Nan came across a reference to Sub-Lieutenant Jimmy Cooper, a naval officer in the first boat of the Liberating forces, with whom she had stopped to have a chat on Liberation Day.

Curious as to what had become of him, she made inquiries and, eventually, as a result of a national radio broadcast, she met and became friends with both Jimmy and his wife.

They kept in touch and, after the death of Mrs Cooper, the friendship continued and blossomed to the extent that Nan and Jimmy were married in Spalding Methodist Church on 27 November 2004, nearly 60 years after their brief encounter on the Jersey quayside. Nan was 89 and 'Young Jimmy' a mere 82.

After the wedding, which attracted national media interest, the couple lived happily in Spalding for nearly ten years, with Nan welcoming successive holders of the Miss Battle of Flowers title to the town when they attended the Spalding Flower Festival.

Sadly Jimmy died in 2013, and Nan later moved to her present care home.

She continues to enjoy good health, however, and takes pleasure in the company of her fellow residents, visits from friends and relatives and in sitting and admiring the gardens at the home.

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