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Helen Franks - Obituary
April 2008

Helen Franks  Helen Franks, the health and features editor of Laterlife until last Autumn, sadly died on Easter Sunday at the age of 73. She was cremated at Golders Green on April 1 at a service attended by more than 250 people.

Helen had an exotic air, which might be traced in part to her grandparents, Russian and Polish Jews fleeing persecution at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, who settled in London. It also was there in her striking looks and her wonderfully stylish dress sense. Helen was brought up in Soho, and for her London's cultural richness was very much home. During the war she was evacuated to schooling in Oxford, but returned later to live with her parents in Hackney, before, daringly - this was the early 1950s - moving into a bedsit in Bayswater and launching herself on the world of work.

In 1960 she married Arthur Franks, a consulting engineer. Early in their marriage they moved to their comfortable family home in West Hampstead. Here, very much a team, they brought up their three children, Hannah, Julia and Steven, and later delighted in their five grandchildren.

As her many friends will attest, Helen had the rare and precious gift of turning casual acquaintances into lifelong buddies. The funeral and the gloriously joyful lunch that followed at her husband, Arthur's Highgate golf club, there were men and women from the many groups and circles to which she had belonged and contributed along the way: journalists from Women in Media in which she played a prominent role in the 80s and 90s; a successful crime-writer from her very active writers' group; a friend who had been part of a prison visiting group; students from the course she taught for several years at City Lit as well as fellow walkers. Walking remained one of the great pleasures of Helen's life almost to the very end.

Helen had been a hardworking and successful journalist for many years. Starting as a sub-editor in the 1960s firstly on Good Housekeeping magazine, then Woman, she went freelance when her children were born, putting in eight years as family health editor of Home and Freezer Digest, and later writing features, a medical news column and an advice column.

She wrote seven books, many of them covering edgy, difficult subjects: Goodbye Tarzan (Allen and Unwin, 1984), Remarriage (Bodley Head, 1988) and Mummy Doesn't Live Here Any More (Doubleday 1990). Her health books included Bone Boosters (Boxtree 1993) which she co-wrote with the Green Goddess, Diana Moran, and one of the first anti-ageing books, Getting Older Slowly (Rosendale Press1995).

She contributed to the Guardian, the Times, Observer, Independent, Good Housekeeping, Woman, Family Circle, Marie Claire, Choice and Woman’s Journal. For the last seven years she was health and features editor of www.laterlife.com , a job she adored and which she only gave up, reluctantly, when she became ill and found typing too difficult.

All of us involved in www.laterlife.com  will greatly miss her energy, enthusiasm and friendship.

Helen Franks (nee Swayger), writer and journalist,
born April 5 1934; died March 23, 2008
 


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