Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Joseph Witriol’s birth. A self-profile was published in The Woodside Ark, the magazine of the Woodside Park Synagogue, in September 1989.
As mentioned in the profile, he edited the synagogue magazine for seven years. His talent as a writer was reflected in his editorials and other pieces. His precision and love of language meant that copy was proofread to a high standard. But he also had the organisational skills to ensure the magazine went out on schedule and got distributed efficiently.
Skipping forward two generations; next week is the 21st birthday of Sophie, his second granddaughter by his daughter Susannah.
Both Sophie and her older sister, Rachel, feature occasionally in his journal. This is dated 20 July 1992:
Baby-sat (with Edith) with Sophie; Susannah, Ian [dad, Ian Christie] and Rachel to IKEA. Sophie a delight, at times calm, pensive, impassive; alternating with shrieks and tumbling all over the place.
And on 22 December 1992:
SIRS [the family’s acronym – created by Joseph Witriol?] walked in Sunday evening, just like that, having driven all day from Varese [where they were living], getting up at 5 a.m. London time. Kids delightful, except that Sophie screams and screams if crossed.
In contrast to the rather morbid writing that permeated many of his later Journal entries, he (and of course my mum in spades) experienced true joy and delight when in the company of their beautiful granddaughters.