Tribute: Mrs Maria Keaveney-Jessiman

Tribute: Mrs Maria Keaveney-Jessiman

Tribute: Mrs Maria Keaveney-Jessiman

A tribute to Maria and her lifelong dedication to childcare and education

Mrs. Maria Keaveney-Jessiman, founder of the Eveline Day & Nursery Schools, died aged 96 on the 14th January 2021 at St. George’s Hospital, Tooting.

Born in the village of Kilcooley, County Galway, to parents Mark and Mary, she attended Kilcroan School from the age of 5. At the age of 19 she moved to Scotland and began a career in nursing before moving to London where she joined the Civil Service, working for The Ministry of Health. She met her husband Alf in the late 1940s and they married in St. Anselm’s Church in Tooting in 1950. Three children followed, a daughter Eveline and twin sons Justin and Gordon.

While caring for her young children, she began a child-minding service for other children from the family home in Tooting. A Health Inspector, so impressed by the level of care provided, suggested that she considered opening a nursery and in 1964 the first Eveline Day Nursery was opened in Huron Road, Tooting. At a time when young mothers were often expected to remain at home to raise children and the absence of state-run nursery places was a barrier, Maria Keaveney-Jessiman believed that mothers wanted to work and nurseries should be an ‘extension of the home’, where children were safe and could thrive in stimulating environments.

As a mother of 3 young children whilst running her own business – a rare combination in the 1960’s – she also believed it was as important to support the mothers and families of the children. With this progressive thinking and joined by her husband in business, she went on to establish 7 more nurseries across South West London. A school was a natural extension and in 1989 The Eveline Day School opened in Balham, headed by her daughter Eveline, who shares the same passion for education. Her son Gordon also joined the business, which remains family run.

Her husband passed away in 2015, but she continued to be actively involved in the running of the nurseries and school and her passion for childcare and education continued unabated. During the lockdown of 2020, aged 95, she surpassed her own fundraising challenge by climbing 100,000 steps at home, raising money for children’s charities close to her heart.

In 2018, her impact on the education of the young was recognised when she received the ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’ from the National Day Nursery Association. Only days before her passing in January 2021, Maria Keaveney Jessiman was awarded an MBE for services to education in the Queen’s New Year’s Honour list. She will be deeply missed by her children – daughter Eveline and son Gordon and his wife Maria, her grandchildren, Addie, Kelsey, Kelly, Ryan, Lucy, Aimee and Sean and many great grandchildren and also, her sisters: Terry, Gina and Blanche as well as her extended family, friends and colleagues at Eveline Day Nursery Schools.

Funeral Details

For those that wish to pay their respects virtually, the church and funeral service will be available to stream. The funeral is set to take place on Monday 22 February, with the 11.30am church service available to stream via this link, and the 2pm cemetery service via this link. The cemetery service requires the password, ‘EvelineDay’.