Mourners pay tribute to Jeni Ayris
An aviation worker killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan had a “heart big enough to bring everyone together”.
Jeni Ayris, 47, was killed alongside 11 fellow aviation workers in September after a suicide bomber struck the minibus in which they were travelling.
Mourners packed in to Mortonhall Crematorium to pay their last respects to Ms Ayris, a popular and well-known figure in Tollcross where she ran the South African cafe and deli Ndebele.
The emotional service was led by the Reverend Clive Slaughter, who said he had known Jeni and her sister, Patricia, since they attended high school in Durban.
He told the congregation: “Jeni was an extraordinary friend with such a positive character, you could not fail to like her.
“I’m quite sure heaven is a fun place anyway. Well, now it’s a bit more fun.”
Ms Ayris, noted for her vibrant personality and upbeat attitude to life, was credited with bringing many in attendance together as friends and, in some cases, companions.
Staff and customers at her home street cafe, described as the “hub” of the community, became good friends.
Described by her sister as her “best friend”, Patricia said: “I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of my sister.
“Jeni liked to burn the candle at both ends and a bit in the middle for good measure. She loved everyone with all her being and would never give up on anyone.”
Ms Ayris, who was brought up in Cape Town, moved to Edinburgh 17 years ago and had British citizenship.
She had been travelling for six years before she arrived in the Capital.
Ms Ayris had been working in Afghanistan for just over a year, on a three month on, one month off basis, as a customer relations manager for aviation firm Air Charter Services. The firm organises private flights for charities and NGOs into and out of the country.
The attack in Afghanistan came as she was travelling near Kabul Airport. She had been preparing to leave the war-torn country to return to Edinburgh.
Islamic militant group Hezb-e-Islami has claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was in retaliation for a controversial American anti-Islam film.
Brian Crozier, one of Jeni’s oldest friends, described how she had “fallen in love with Scotland” and had a particular affection for the Isle of Mull.
He also spoke of her love of cooking, sailing and having fun.
He said: “Jeni’s sense of humour defined her. Jeni lived each day to the max and we all will learn from that.”
One of Jeni’s best friends, Barryjohn Stewart, read out a poignant tribute.
He said: “Jeni had a heart big enough to bring everybody together. She was the glue, she brought so many of us together and she kept us together.
“From her wee Ndebele hub in Tollcross she painted a new vibrant community. Life was so much better for having known her.”
Patricia, who lives in Rosewell, Midlothian, is Jeni’s only immediate family.
She said: “I know I will never be an orphan because I have the biggest extended family I could wish for.”
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