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STUNTNEY PERSONALITIES

No 1 - Rosina Lillian Mary Cowley (known as Rose)

Rose was born on 23rd November 1923

Rose's family home was 41 Silver Street, Ely; she had a sister, Frances, who was 4 years older.

Their father was of Irish extraction and served as an officer in the Army. Rose was very proud of this fact. He served in the First World War but sadly died soon afterwards from TB. Tragically, the girls lost their mother also to TB, when Rose was 12 and Frances 16.

When Rose was 12 she left school, but in spite of her lack of formal education she was remarkably well read and continued to be so for the rest of her life. When the 2nd World War began Rose volunteered to go to London and train as a nurse for the war effort. She nursed in Harringay, Harrow-on-the-Hill and other London hospitals. She also trained in midwifery. Whilst in London she learnt to drive and enjoyed going to the theatre, visiting art galleries and museums and started to collect antiquarian books. Her love of reading included Shakespeare, poetry and murder mysteries.

After the war Rose and Archie were married at St Mary's Church, Ely on the 28th August 1948. They had known each other before the war and had corresponded during it. Archie told me that Rose had said that he was a lovely man, and he said 'well you'd better marry me'. He also told me that they had a wonderful 66 years of marriage. They began their married life in Ely, where Trisha was born and Steve was born after they moved to Stuntney.

Rose became very much part of village life, often called on as an unofficial first, responder. She helped the elderly if someone had fallen, when someone went into labour or if a neighbour died.

During the 1950's and 60's being a rural village there was always a surplus of produce in the summer. Rose made copious amounts of jam, pies and preserved fruit which was bottled. Things changed when Rose bought possibly one of the first freezers in the village. Because Rose loved murder mysteries, Archie joked that he might end up in the freezer one day!

Rose had continued working at the Tower Hospital in Ely - Trisha says that because her mum was a nurse, she would say that 'people were all the same without their clothes and they all bleed.' This, and her faith in God whom she believed to be in everyone, caused her to defer to no one.

Rose had survived the blitz in London, but she always remained afraid of thunder storms. She would get under a table and read poetry.

When lifting heavy patients became a problem, Rose left the Tower Hospital and nursing. She then applied for and was appointed School Secretary at Stuntney Church School. Rose held this post during the 70's until she retired in 1983 at the age of 60. Lots of folk who were children during her time there will remember her from school, listening to them read, or attending to their grazed knees.

Rose also helped to establish a playing field for children in the village. A farmer, old Mr Ambrose, was approached, and part of a field was obtained for a peppercorn rent. Then money was raised to buy swings and a slide from Wicksteed Park.

One thing that annoyed Rose during this time was that she had let her driving licence lapse. Although having driven during the war, she failed her test several times and refused to take it again in disgust with the examiner.

In retirement she continued to garden and read everything she could get her hands on. Unfortunately, after a series of mini strokes and two serious ones she was robbed of some of her gardening ability. However, she still enjoyed her reading and the feel of a well bound book.

Considering Rose's start in life, losing both parents while she was so young and leaving school at the age of 12, she went on to live a full life. Rose achieved much in her life, nursing, midwifery, and school secretary. Wife to Archie, mother to Trisha and Steve, plus the contribution she gave to the community in Stuntney, Rose's life makes quite an amazing story.

Rose died on 24th January 2014

The Rev. John Sansom said, at the funeral:
"In this funeral service for Rose there will be many feelings and emotions in your hearts and minds. But try if you can, to allow thanksgiving for Rose's life; all the good times you shared with her during her long and full life. Also for the blessings she gave to you and which will remain in your hearts as you give thanks to God."

"In this service we entrust Rose to God our creator and redeemer. Remembering the Christian hope that sees death as the conquered enemy because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, when he rose on the third day, giving us the Easter hope. Rose with an Irish father had roots in the Catholic Church, but became more of an Anglican, not that these differences matter in the eyes of God. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God who reveals the way, the true and the life is what matters."

The Eulogy was written and then delivered by the Rev. John Sansom at her Funeral at Cambridge Crematorium on Thursday 13th February 2014.

A selection of pictures of Mrs Cowley throughout her life:

A very young Rose with her sister, Frances,
their mother and their grandmother


A young Rose


Mrs Cowley (No 13) chatting to Mrs Belsham (No 15) - late 1950s


Archie and Rose


Archie and Rose


At the back of Steward Close - 1979


At the flower stall - Stuntney Show 1987

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