Margaret Iris Lewis. 1921 – 2012. A tribute.   Leave a comment

I attended my mother’s funeral in Derby yesterday. I read the following account of her life at the service and include it on my blog as a celebration of her life.

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Margaret was born in May 1921 in Caerphilly, South Wales. She was the eldest of five. Apparently some neighbours started calling her ‘Maggie’ and her mother then used her middle name Iris, a name that stuck with the family, but she prefered not to use elsewhere.

Her father was a coal miner and times were hard during the Depression. At the age of fourteen Margaret left school and was sent to live with family friends in Birmingham where she worked in a Post Office and sent most of her income home to help support the family. In due course the rest of the family left Wales and moved to Coventry where employment opportunities were better.

Later Margaret started work at Sainsburys in Coventry where, in the late 1930’s, she met Brian Lewis, although this was not approved of by the management who thought it inappropriate for staff to be ‘seeing each other’. With the outbreak of war Brian joined the RAF and she returned to live with her parents. They married in September 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain, so a honeymoon was out of the question.

Margaret in the early 1940s

She lived in Coventry throughout the worst of the Blitz. One morning they discovered the terraced row in front and behind theirs had been destroyed by bombing, but throughout Sainsburys remained open and she continued to work, walking past unexploded bombs and bomb craters to get to work. On one occasion the detonation of an unexploded bomb prevented them from going home and they were sent to a nearby men’s hostel. Panic ensued as night fell and it was realized by the management that young women might have to share the same accommodation as the men!

Coventry during the Blitz. Photo from the internet.

Eventually, with the glow of Coventry burning visible from Brian’s airfield in Bedford, he turned up with a suitcase and had her evacuated to his parents in the village of Cransley in Northamptonshire. Later in the war Brian was stationed in Yorkshire and they both lived there. After the war they returned to work in Coventry where they bought at house in Bell Green. Ian was born in June 1951.

With a promotion to manager, Sainsburys moved Brian to Kettering, Northants in 1955. Simon came along in June 1958 but it was not an easy birth. An emergency caesarian was followed by an emergency hysterectomy and Margaret nearly died. A long period of convalescence had her and Simon staying with her sister in the West Midlands, so Ian was looked after by family friends whilst Brian was at work.

Margaret and Simon in 1958

In 1965 another work related move took the family to Derby. Margaret was to remain in the house they bought in Allestree until she was obliged to move to a nursing in 2010. Ian left home in 1969, first for Leeds, then Poole. Margaret was able to return to work and found employment with British Telecom as a telephone operator. She later moved to the night shift, this was a job she greatly enjoyed, we always joked that was because it meant she could chat all night. She continued to work well past retirement age until 1985, when Brian’s failing health meant she was needed at home.

The house in Derby where Margaret lived from 1965 to 2010

Tragically Brian died on New Years Eve 1985. The transition to living alone was eased by the fact that Simon still lived at home until his marriage in 1990. She coped well with living on her own but as her mobility decreased she became increasingly lonely, although Simon visited very regularly and Ian living 200 miles away in Dorset, phoned on a near daily basis.

By the time she reached her mid eighties it was clear that she was suffering from more than just ‘senior moments’. She struggled to cope, even with Simon’s daily help, and now, diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s, help from the council was implemented. By autumn 2010, when she was aged 89 it was necessary for her to move into a nursing home where she remained until her death in June 2012 at the age of 91. The last few years were problematic; she never quite realized where she was or for that matter understood that her new daughter-in-law shared her name.

Margaret at Christmas 2004

Her final moments were in the company of Simon and his wife Viv and her granddaughters Miriam and Jennifer. Ian was able to speak to her on Simon’s mobile and Simon reported that there was a glimmer of recognition. She passed away peacefully moments later.

Margaret and Simon at Christmas 2011

This account has given the bare bones of Margaret’s life but says nothing of the type of person she was. Margaret was a wonderful loving wife and mother, prepared to do anything for her husband and children. She upheld traditional values of honesty, order, cleanliness, thrift and financial self-sufficiency. She was proud of her sons achievements, be it Simon academic success and church work or Ian’s globetrotting. She adored her granddaughters, cared deeply for her wider family and her friends. She was a wonderful cook, made the most amazing cakes with the most intricate icing imaginable and made the beautiful flower arrangements.

Simon and I could not have wished for a more caring and compassionate mother. She had been a devoted wife to Brian and loving grandmother to Miriam and Jennifer. It goes without saying that she will be sorely missed.

Posted June 28, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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