Estelle Hussain, College Housekeeper 1978-2000

Estelle Hussain, the College Housekeeper from 1978 until her retirement in 2000, died after a long illness on 5th December. Malcolm Deas and Jill Flitter represented the College at her funeral on 17th December at the church of St Laurence, South Hinksey, where she was buried next to her beloved daughter Sharee, who died tragically young. They write:

Estelle was truly memorable. Those of us who knew and worked with her, and generations of students, will attest to that. First, but perhaps least important, was her professional competence. Malcolm remembers that when she was appointed in 1978 the somewhat awestruck College Secretary, Pam Vandermin, told him that St Antony’s had just made an important acquisition. She was right.

Most of St Antony’s was then a dilapidated slum. Its properties were falling down and some were hardly habitable: Jill recalls that those interviewing Estelle had been reluctant to show her round in case she declined to take the job. Together with the formidable Bursar Archie Willet and the DB John Sellers, Estelle embarked on the long-term work of redemption.  Estelle had standards, great natural authority, and a perhaps Irish lack of undue deference. Getting to know her on the Property Committee, Malcolm soon concluded that she could have commanded a regiment and that he would have been happy to serve as adjutant.  She did not compromise, and at the same time she was not bossy, but always humane, at times humorous, and a fine judge of character.

Many fellows, students, and visitors became friends. At the funeral, Estelle’s granddaughter Amber told how on meeting a new student with a similar surname, her grandmother had joked that unfortunately, she herself was not a member of the Jordanian royal family. Unknown to her, the student was, and this led to a lasting friendship and a marvellous holiday for Estelle in Jordan.  She loved to travel, visiting her brother Alex in Australia, and taking in Hong Kong and Singapore. In retirement, she worked for a time as part-time matron at Christ Church choir school and accompanied the choir on several European trips.

She took particular pleasure in running the house in Hamilton Road belonging to the Andres Bello Fellowship for visiting fellows from Venezuela. With a separate endowment, it escaped the economies of St Antony’s, and she made sure that everything there was welcoming. Several Bello Fellows became life-long friends, and on return visits to Oxford would look for her in her snug flat off Walton Street. One writes from Caracas that he came to rely on her advice on all sorts of things, and never regretted it.