Collette Lee, Much Loved, Never Forgotten

Collette with her fiancée Sasha

Collette Lee wasn’t just another barmaid. She was the caring, grumpy, OCD heart of Vanilla, where she had worked for 6 years. You’d find her behind the bar, working her socks of ‘til the early hours, either pulling pints, checking that her staff were OK, or cleaning the bar to within an inch of its life – in fact, if you stood still long enough, she’d probably try and polish you too!
Even if you were an infrequent visitor to Vanilla, she would always remember your order. If you went in without friends, you were never alone if Collette was behind the bar; she’d always make the time to talk to you. Collette had an incredible work ethic, driven by love for her daughters Emily and Bethany, and a desire to craft a beautiful future with her fiancée Sasha.
I remember when she posted about her diabetes diagnosis on Facebook. There was no self-pity, no sadness, just a drive to put the diagnosis behind her and move forward to better health, detailing her workout progress via regular Facebook posts. She was managing her condition well, and so it came as a shock to all who knew her to hear of her passing last Wednesday, 24th May. She slipped into a diabetic coma in the night, and didn’t wake up. As the news spread through Manchester’s LGBT community, it became quite clear how loved she was amongst patrons of Vanilla as tributes flooded in on social media. People wanted to do something, and so plans were put in place for a memorial fundraiser by Steph and Mel Kay, Vanilla’s owners, and Steph Little, promotions manager at the bar. The fundraiser took place on 2nd June and raised just under £6000!
Tributes from friends and colleagues

They say that in Manchester, we do things differently, and more so in the Gay Village. We come together when we lose someone, and come together we did, from across Manchester and beyond to celebrate her life and raise money to give her a fitting send-off. Staff donated their time, DJs queued up to play a set, and patrons of Vanilla from down the years showed up and put their hands in their pockets. If this isn’t proof of how much everyone loved Collette, I don’t know what is! Collette will never be forgotten. She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her.
Vanilla continues fundraising with a LIVE auction on Thursday 7th June at 9PM at Vanilla – up for grabs include an amazing piece of Take That Memorabilia, A Signed Man United Shirt, and a 5 night stay in a luxury villa in Tenerife! You can also donate through Just Giving to get them to their £7000 target.


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