Founder of Eveline Day & Nursery Schools and MBE has sadly died

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Founder of Eveline Day & Nursery Schools and MBE has sadly died

Postby Community Editor » Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:41 pm

The founder of the Eveline Day & Nursery Schools and MBE, Maria Keaveney-Jessiman, has died aged 96. 

Maria, a Wimbledon resident, was awarded an MBE for her services to education in the Queen’s 2021 New Year’s Honour list just days before her passing in January. 

She was recognised for her impact on education of the young and received the ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’ from the National Day Nursery Association in 2018.  


The daughter of Mark and Mary, Maria was born in Kilcooley village, County Galway, where she attended Kilcroan School from the age of five. 

Maria moved to Scotland aged 19 to embark on a career in nursing before moving to London where she joined the Civil Service working for the Ministry of Health. Maria met her husband Alf in the late 1940s and they married in St. Anselm’s Church, Tooting in 1950. They had three children, a daughter, Eveline and twin sons, Justin and Gordon.

Maria began a child-minding service from her family home in Tooting while caring for her own young children. She then opened the first Eveline Day Nursery on Huron Road, Tooting in 1964 after a health inspector was so impressed by the level of care she provided. 

At the time, young mothers were expected to remain at home to raise children and the absence of state-run nursery places was a barrier. But Maria believed mothers wanted to work and nurseries should be an ‘extension of the home’ where children were safe and could thrive in stimulating environments.

Maria also thought it was important to support mothers and families of the children. Maria ran her own business while looking after her three young children – a rare combination in the 1960s. 

Thanks to her progressive thinking and joined by her husband in business, Maria established seven more nurseries across South West London. The Eveline Day School opened in Balham in 1989, headed by Maria’s daughter Eveline who shares the same passion for education. Maria was the principal of the Eveline Day & Nursery Schools for over 50 years.

She was actively involved in the running of the nurseries and school and her passion for childcare and education continued unabated after her husband’s passing in 2015. The business remains family run after Gordon also joined and includes seven nurseries and one school in South West London. 

Maria surpassed her own fundraising challenge raising money for children’s charities close to her heart by climbing 100,000 steps at home during the 2020 lockdown aged 95. 
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Re: Founder of Eveline Day & Nursery Schools and MBE has sadly died

Postby Coffeeplease » Mon Feb 22, 2021 2:57 pm

A wonderful & inspiring woman. We are big fans of the nursery and school and our children have benefitted hugely from these settings. She leaves behind an immense legacy.
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