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Friends gather to celebrate a truly inspirational life

PUBLISHED: 14:07 03 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:39 07 September 2010

IN 1943 Andrée Gross made the perilous journey across the Pyrenees mountains from occupied France to Spain with her three-year-old daughter in her arms so she could be with her husband Julien

Ben McPartland

IN 1943 Andrée Gross made the perilous journey across the Pyrenees mountains from occupied France to Spain with her three-year-old daughter in her arms so she could be with her husband Julien.

After escaping the horrors of the Second World War, the couple, whose incredible story was later the subject of a play, settled in Hampstead.

On December 17 Mrs Gross died at the age of 94. Just two days earlier, the couple had celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.

On Friday, at an intimate memorial service in the East Chapel of Golders Green Crematorium, Mr Gross, 95, led the tributes to his wife.

He said: "Our lives were complete together. She was very brave in both her actions and her thoughts and she was always thinking of the good side in humanity.

"Andrée was honest in everything she did, whether it was physical, mental or emotional. She created a family and her main concern was to bring up a family which reflected us."

Ms Gross died peacefully nine weeks after being admitted to the Royal Free Hospital after suffering a stroke.

On December 14, Mr Gross joined her at her bedside to celebrate 69 years of marriage.

He said: "It was very emotional. I gave her a card with a picture of us from when we first met. I described the tribulations of our lives and assured her that the permanence of her personality will live on through family and friends."

Mr Gross was a member of the French Resistance and was forced to flee to England through Spain to escape anti-semitism and the German army.

The couple first settled in Camden, before ending up in Greenhill overlooking Hampstead High Street.

The story of the couple's journey from Pau in south-west France to England was told in the play Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, which received rave reviews when it was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer.

Ms Gross, who never lost her French accent, devoted much of her life to her three children Ann, Michelle and Jose and her five grandchildren.

In 1967 she began work in textile printing and ladies fashion with her husband at the business they set up in Brick Lane.

When the company relocated to Leyton, she became a quality controller until it was sold in 1991.

Ms Gross then joined her daughter Ann working in a haberdashery shop in Camden Town.

In her later life she regularly popped along to the café in Golders Hill Park with her husband to meet various friends, many of whom were writers and artists.

Those friends, as well as others who had made the journey from France, joined Mr Gross and his family at Friday's ceremony.

As mourners filed out of the crematorium they were accompanied by the Tino Rossi song J'attendrai (I will wait for you) which was released in 1938, the year the couple met.

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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