Monday, 27 September 2021

Memories of local woman from the other side of the world

I HAVE had a request from the other side of the world to publish a tribute to a woman who will have been known to a lot of people in Henley

I HAVE had a request from the other side of the world to publish a tribute to a woman who will have been known to a lot of people in Henley.

Stella Pugh died exactly a year ago on Wednesday and her niece Yvonne Langley-Walsh has asked for the anniversary to be marked with her very personal memories of her aunt.

Stella, who was 86, was married to George, a long-serving postman in Henley, and they lived in Crisp Road for 50 years. George died in November 2010.

Yvonne, who lives in Sydney, says: "My aunt's story and her life in Henley is now history but great history."

Her tribute is as follows: "My aunt Stella was the last relative of my parents' generation, survivors of the Second World War.

"I write this tribute to honour myriad memories across time and space: growing up in England with my aunts and cousins; when Stella and George made their trip â??down underâ?? in 1988; the â??staysâ?? that my parents, my sister and I individually had with them in Henley.

â??My head is full of images of childhood summer holidays spent in Sonning Common, running amok with cousins in Kidmore End, Peppard, Shiplake and at Hurst fair, warm lazy afternoons on swings or in the copse which seemed endless in the Fifties, scrumping apples from orchards, chasing chickens because I forgot the gate when collecting eggs and the thrill of night rides in the sidecar of war-weary motorbike.

â??Another memory is Stella exhorting me to whiten my plimsolls for a day's outing on the river - a simple luxury then was a summer riverside picnic and boat hire from Shiplake and seeing all the locks. This is one of my cherished Wind In The Willows memories of messing about in a boat on the Thames...

â??Through the lens of childhood, my aunt Stella and uncle George were a brash and adventurous couple. They seemed larger-than-life and were always going places, doing things and behaving how we secretly wished our parents would. â??Aunt and uncleâ?� meant playtime for all us nieces and nephews as they had dogs, cats, ferrets, chickens and a budgie. They chewed bubble-gum, ate sweets, drank Tizer and brightly coloured soda-pop â?? things not favoured by our parents. George always got Stella and me seats on his coach trips to palaces and castles and afterwards she would terrorise me with a quiz on what I had learned. I owe my enthusiasm and lifelong passion for ancient places to Stella.

â??When they werenâ??t on holidays â??down to Landâ??s End or Bourne-mouthâ?? or â??up to Scotland or Walesâ??, Stella and George were fully occupied with their seemingly endless social activities. George held the medal for longest service at Henley Post Office. They were â??networkersâ?? before the term was invented: whist-drives, dog-training, dressing up for formal dinners and dancing â?? Stella loved glam and bling.

â??They went to Burma Star Association reunion parties, jumble sales, post office â??dosâ?�, markets, flower and dog shows â?? they knew everyone from all times and walks of life. Stella and George were huge fun â?? at harvest season every year she would beat all-comers and win the pig in the pitch-for-a-pig competition.

â??It was Stellaâ??s constancy that encouraged my motherâ??s spirit of adventure as we resettled in Australia. Over the decades, these sisters wrote hundreds of letters and posted dozens of audio tapes to and fro and Stella reminded her extended family across generations and continents in telephone conversations that â??family is bound by blood tiesâ?�. Thus nieces and nephews witnessed aunt Stella morphing into her role as matriarch of our extended-family as her own siblings passed away and she nursed her George to his grave.

â??Henley folks would know of Stella Pugh as cook or cafeteria manager at Badgemore Primary School where she worked for many generations of schoolchildren from the Eighties, by her lifelong association with formal dog training and her active patronage of PAT dog visits to nursing homes and hospitals.

â??Stella witnessed all in her 40-plus years in Henley. She championed nature conservation and all fauna, domestic and wild. She lived for her beloved dogs and was the â??Bird Ladyâ?? in her street, providing water, seeds and titbits all-year round and exhorting others to â??remember the birds in winterâ??.

â??The first anniversary of her death marks the end of an era for the baby-boomer cohort of her/our extended family. We cousins are now the elders and Stella is our shared history.â?�

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