Colette was a dedicated member of the catering team at LJMU for 42 years, having joined Liverpool Polytechnic in 1981.
Sadly, in October 2023, just four months before her retirement, Colette passed away after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia just a few months earlier. She was a much-loved colleague, developing life-long friendships during more than four decades working for the polytechnic and university. Colette also had, and continues to have, many family ties to LJMU.
Colette’s mum Veronica was already working at the polytechnic when the closure of the Tate & Lyle factory would lead Colette to find employment alongside her mum at the canteen on the 7th floor of the Byrom Street building. It was here where she met fellow long-serving member of staff Elizabeth Campbell (nee O’Hara) who would go on to marry one of Colette’s four siblings, her younger brother John, and become ‘auntie Liz’.
Colette and Liz were well known for frequenting the on-site bar after work, as many staff did back then, which was conveniently located on the same floor as the canteen and was said to have a brilliant juke box.
When Colette and her husband Pat had their first child, a son called Patrick, she would meet her mum as she was finishing work, handing over Patrick in his pram, and then making her way to work to start her shift. Colette also went on to have a daughter, Kate, who worked alongside her mum when she joined the catering team. Kate continues to work at LJMU alongside her auntie Liz in the Social Zone at Byrom Street.
Kate says that her mum really valued having a job so close to home when she and her brother were growing up, and the term-time work meant that her mum would spend quality time with the family during the summer holidays. Her mum never thought that she would stay at LJMU as long as she did, but she absolutely loved having the chance to work alongside her daughter as they had an incredibly close mother-daughter relationship.
Colette worked in almost every catering outlet at the university, working her final years in the John Lennon Art and Design Building alongside colleague Shaun Johnson, until sadly she became too unwell to work.
Colette was honoured with the Outstanding Professional Services award at the JMSU Student Experience Awards 2023, alongside Shaun.
“The award was so deserving to both her and Shaun. They were like a double act when they got put together and all of the staff and students at John Lennon Art and Design adored them. They were what made that cafe so inviting and a space where the students could go to relax and have a laugh, away from all the stress of what university is at times.”
– Kate Dalton, Colette's daughter
Kate says that her mum always felt it was a privilege to get to look after the students, treating them as if they were her own. She also loved the diversity of customers, ranging from local tradespeople to senior officials, and occasionally a famous face.
It was around March or April 2023 that Colette started to get sick, with her family taking her to hospital in May to try to better understand why she was feeling so unwell. Kate explained what happened next: “For weeks they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She kept getting infections and they were constantly doing blood tests, x-rays, scans, ECGs - you name it they done it!
“After weeks of not knowing, they eventually took a bone marrow biopsy and on 12 June 2023 she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. They immediately sent her to Clatterbridge to start her treatment.
“My mum fought breast cancer almost 23 years ago. The doctors informed us that all of them rounds of radiotherapy that she was previously exposed to can sadly cause this type of cancer later in life.”
Colette’s family were really hopeful that the intense chemotherapy and daily blood and platelet transfusions would work, but as time went on it was clear that the treatments weren’t helping to reduce the illness.
“The doctors told us the news we were absolutely dreading,” says Kate, “My mum’s leukaemia was progressing, and it was starting to affect her bones. With the guidance from medical professionals and as a family, we collectively made the heartbreaking decision to stop all chemotherapy treatment as she was just not strong enough to go through it all again.
“My mum was an amazing, resilient woman and she put up the biggest fight of her life, but she didn’t stand a chance against that awful illness.” Colette was transferred to the Marie Curie Hospice in Liverpool on 5 October 2023.
“All of her family and friends (past and present) came to visit her every day. I had to make a spreadsheet for time slots! That’s how much she was loved and how many people wanted to say their last goodbyes. She was just the best and for anyone who had the privilege of knowing her, then how lucky are we?”
On 17 October 2023 Colette passed away.
“My Mum slowly faded from our lives. She was surround by her family and it was very peaceful. We miss her so much.”
On behalf of the Dalton family, Kate would like to express a massive thank you to everyone at LJMU for their overwhelming support during Colette's illness.
“Thank you to all of the catering and hospitality staff, cleaners, general assistants, receptionists, all those in management, security, tutors, and of course the students. The generosity of every single person was overwhelming.
“Special thanks must go to Shaun Johnson for initiating the GoFundMe page, with all proceeds going to Marie Curie Hospice in Liverpool. They would not be able to do what they do without the help of charities and volunteers. They are living angels, and they all made my mum’s stay as comfortable as possible. They don’t just look after the patients, but the families as well.”
A certificate commemorating the funds raised will be displayed alongside Colette's photograph in the John Lennon Art and Design coffee shop on the lower ground floor.
Finally, Kate added: “It's heartbreaking that she was just four months away from retirement and didn't get the chance to enjoy it after all these years.”