Family pays tribute to founder of Jolly Dollies support network

Yvonne Vann

Yvonne Vann. - Credit: Zoe Taylor

The daughter of an Uphill woman who set up a support network for widows has paid tribute to her positivity and energy. 

Yvonne Vann set up Jolly Dollies – a club for women who lost their husbands – after the death of her husband Vic. 

Yvonne met Yvonne met Vic ‘the love of her life’ after moving to Somerset with her two young children following the break-up of her first marriage. 

Her daughter Zoe said: “They lived together for many happy years, settling down in the village of Uphill, raising their children from their previous marriages as they embarked together on a laughter filled second act of family life.” 

Vic died from a rare neurological condition - multi-system atrophy (MSA) - in 2007, which left her ‘lost and without purpose’. 

Zoe said: “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 empathise with what she was going through and after this impromptu chat the pair started to meet for a walk or a glass of wine, over time inviting other local widows to join them.  

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“From this sprang the inspiration for Yvonne to form the Jolly Dollies – so called as they needed a team name for a pub quiz they had entered one time.  

“Born out of sad beginnings in 2015, today the Jolly Dollies is a vibrant and supportive and strong network of local groups across England, from Worthing on the South Coast to Nairn in Scotland. 

“Yvonne’s energy for life and ability to turn a negative into a positive never left her. She could be found every day throughout lockdown walking with her ‘bubble’, her close friend and neighbour, as they decided to march their way through the pandemic. They often got lost on their meanders through the fields and lanes of the West Country, giggling their heads off as they did so.” 

Yvonne died, aged 74, on June 14 after a short battle with cancer, with her family at her side. She is survived by her daughter Zoe and son Guy, three grandchildren, Olivia, Lewis and Victor, and her brother Robert. 

Zoe added: “For Yvonne, Vic was her ‘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.”