Modelling is more than just beauty and a smile, it’s being bold, adventurous and confident. Someone who would attest to this is Isabelle Tilney, whose daring style and character complimented her natural elegance, grace and poise to work any camera during her impressive fashion career.
Isabelle, who is a member of the Frome Nursing Home family, was a fashion model who adorned billboards, magazine covers and inside pages of newspapers. Her works varied from sports clothes and swim wear, to bold bikini’s that pushed the norms of the time.
She appeared in the Daily Sketch, Woman’s Own and has shared that she was even the first girl to appear on billboards in the UK advertising Pepsi!
Isabelle started life in Norfolk on the 22nd November 1938. Her father was a policeman and he was entrusted with guarding the royal gates of the King George VI at his residence of Sandringham House. Isabelle and her father would often stay in the gatehouse cottage.
Four years later, her father volunteered for army service and joined the Suffolk regiment where he served in the far east. He was captured and put to work on the Burma ‘death’ railway and like thousands lost his life whilst still imprisoned working on the railway.
Isabelle was then raised by her maternal grandparents. Her grandad was a wealthy strict Baptist preacher and she was privileged to have an upbringing on a sizeable farm. Isabelle was quite the accomplished athlete and was all set to commit herself to a career in sport before her grandfather opposed the idea. She then moved in with her mother in Wisbech town, who was now remarried with four children.
Isabelle began working life in Wisbech as a book binder aged 15, but it wasn’t long before she was dreaming of her next career move; one with far more glitz and glamour. She started modelling for an agency called Lillian Reams. It was here that Isabelle made her career in modelling, shooting for the Daily Sketch, Woman’s Own Magazine and Pepsi.
“She appeared in the Daily Sketch newspaper a few times wearing leopard print bikinis.” Her daughter Julie revealed. “I was told she had photos of her wearing a pearl necklace for Woman’s Own magazine and wearing a skating outfit for billboards for Pepsi Cola!”
It was during this time that she met Maurice, a young petty officer in the Royal Navy, who was also spell cast by Isabelle’s obvious charm and beauty. They were married in 1957 when she was 18. It wasn’t only Maurice who was appreciative of Isabelle’s beauty, as he would often find pictures of Isabelle’s modelling shots on his colleague’s locker doors!
The couple moved to Weymouth before they had their first daughter Julie. Having welcomed their first child into the family, Maurice asked Isabelle if she’d give up modelling, which she did. The couple had Julie’s sister Gayle in 1960 and then their brother Nicholas later in 1969.
After the birth of Nicholas, Isabelle returned to work, initially starting as a childcare officer in a children’s home. After three years she re-trained as a French chef, but she still wasn’t inspired. She then started as a food technology lab assistant, training in microbiology.
Following the completion of her training and finally settled on a career that could satisfy her mind, Isabelle went onto work at Smedley Foods for 12 years. During this time, her daughter Gayle, 17 was diagnosed with cancer and she sadly passed at the age of 19.
After working at Smedley, Isabelle ran a laboratory for Sibseys, testing food produce for many suppliers and businesses including RF Brooke’s and Marks & Spencer before retiring in 2009.
It was soon after that she began to show signs of beginning her journey with dementia. Maurice passed away shortly after her diagnosis and she moved to Somerset, Frome, to be closer to her son Nicholas.
Isabelle has been living at Frome Nursing Home since July 2018 and although her modelling career is over, she has lost none of her presence and enticing beauty in front of a camera. She has been loving her previous occupation, in her best pearls, marvellous fashion and natural beauty at the home. The team enable her to remain as glamorous as she ever was, posing for pictures in her best wear and finest jewellery.
A person living with a dementia may experience difficulties around recalling memories the further they are along with their journey. However, being involved in previous occupations can reconnect emotional memories and feelings of belonging of personal pastimes loved.
At Frome Nursing Home, the home doesn’t provide meaningless activities for the family members to participate in. Instead they enable genuine connections with occupations that are personal to the members who live there and their life histories. The family members who choose to live in the home, truly shape the home in every sense.
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