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Margaret Woods, nee Reynolds, 2014
Stella Mavis Reynolds (nee Jones)

She was born on 19th October 1919 in Dayton Street Rushden, of English/Welsh heritage. Her father, David Jones, of Machynlleth, came to Rushden with the 7th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers to train in 1914 and having survived shelling in Gallipoli, returned to marry his sweetheart, Sarah Holliday.

The family – Stella, her brother Ron whose wife Eileen still lives in Plymouth and parents lived in Newton Road, where she met her life-long friend Kath Jeeves.

They attended Newton Road School, where Jimmy Reynolds, whose son she would later marry, was schoolmaster. Companionship came when Nancy, her cousin, and her brother came to stay with them from Wales. Stella was awarded a scholarship to Wellingborough Girls’ School (now Wrenn School) and she made the journey with a long walk from the station, by train thus saving 4d daily – enough to buy a Mars Bar – instead of taking the bus that passed the gates! When she was 14, she had to leave to look after her mother who had severe arthritis – so didn’t have chance to sit Matriculation Exams – this would spur her on in later life.

She began her working career in the office of the Tecnic Shoe Company. She was 20 when war broke out and five years later married Ken Reynolds an RAF pilot, son of her old schoolmaster in June 1944 in Wymington Church.

They lived in Church Lane and had 4 children Diana, Margaret, John and Charles. Family life became all absorbing in this middle period of her life. As the children grew up, work beckoned again. She had a time working in the office of Ellis and Everard and for a while was cook in the newly extended school in Wymington. Whilst there she was encouraged to train as a teacher. Firstly she had to attend Mander College, Bedford, to gain qualifications she had missed as a schoolgirl and came away with top grades, subsequently beginning life as a mature student in Teacher Training, which she loved.

Having completed the course, she was offered a job by Mrs. Catlin in South End Infant School, where she excelled. There she met Pat Jenkins who shared her love of literature, history and children (of course). She and Pat made many excursions together to Children’s Book Federation events and to European destinations for holidays.

Family holidays began with a precious week in Wales each summer and later Stella and Ken travelled both there and to the East Coast in their camper van. Other holidays included Portugal with Aunts Eva and Hilda Holliday and to Jersey, the Rhine Valley, Venice, Holland and Scotland with Ken. There were also two memorable trips to China with Margaret. Their van served them well – visiting Diane and their grandchildren Howard and Keith on the South Coast, picking up Marcus and Holly after school for tea-time treats and taking them to many National Trust Gardens and Wildlife Reserves.

Her love of literature was exceptional, being very well-read and having a fine library and so found a like-minded neighbour in Jean Orton-Fuller, the author, who moved in next door.

They both loved cats – Stella had over 50 cats of all colours and sizes – at one time caring for 17 cats all at once. She was always concerned with Animal Welfare, supporting many charities, in particular the RSPB. Birds flocked to her garden and no creature was too small for help – a ladybird fished from the water barrel or a grounded bumblebee set on its way. She nurtured two baby thrushes to maturity after – alas – a cat got the mother and set them free.

Stella and Ken were both keen gardeners – they also kept hens, grew a fine crop of vegetables and loved to swap flower cuttings with family, friends and neighbours. This in turn led to the kitchen. Stella was an excellent and knowledgeable cook, making many preserves and pickles and was a marvellous wine-maker, at one point having 30 gallons “on the go” in stone jars around the house, complimenting Ken’s home brew.

She had an extensive knowledge of Natural History, the Countryside and Local History – having only last year (2013) been interviewed for Rushden’s Heritage website on by-gone Rushden.

Life seemed busy and bright for many years with the arrival of grandchildren and all the pleasure they gave to her and Ken.

However, the shattering news of the deaths of John and Charles threw joy out of the window and replaced it with deepest sorrow. Through those dark days she showed great fortitude and was helped by daughter-in-law Alison and family to bear those sad losses – as David Smith of Poplars Farm, who read her eulogy at her funeral, noted, living to her 95th year was no bonus in such circumstances but she bravely kept composure. But life was never the same again.

She gained comfort from the company of friends at the W.I., Forget-me-not Club and “Serve” and continued to serve on the Parish council with Brian Capell and friends. She cared for her husband Ken as he grew old and gradually aged herself.

After her husband Ken’s death in 2003 time was spent reading the latest thrillers, solving the crossword, looking after her last cat, Ollie, baking and looking forward to visits from friends and family get-togethers. Her 90th birthday was celebrated in the Memorial Hall in style – a hall she, David Smith and Evelyn Ablett so wanted the village to have and worked hard to see it through as a project.

She had assistance around the house after a hip operation and had her appendix out aged 89 – nearly a record! Her cousin, Neil Anderson, visited from Yorkshire to tell her how he was recording family history both here and in Wales. So that she could remain at home after a pacemaker operation she had three regular carers, Sharon, Pat and Nicola from the village and in the final months of her life her daughters Diane and Margaret and carers from 'Home Instead' helped District Nurses make her as comfortable as possible.

One last visit to see her friend of 90 years in Higham Ferrers – Kath Jeeves (Mrs. K. Felce) in the autumn of 2013 definitely warranted a hairdo and was her last trip through Rushden – a town she had been born in, in 1919. She remained at home and passed away in Wymington on April 12th 2014, free from the infirmities of old age.

She loved village life and all the organisations that made the place tick, worked tirelessly on the Parish Council, was Chair “for some time” and was on the Memorial Hall Committee with David Smith and Evelyn Ablett for 36 years. She also wrote the text for the Millennium Book for Wymington and will be remembered by all the schoolchildren she taught and by family and friends, with admiration and great affection.

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