Stella died in January at the age of 93. She grew up in Oundle, Northamptonshire, where her father was the vicar. Her life-long interest in wildlife was stimulated by her parents who were keen birders and enjoyed long tramps in the Welsh hills. Stella attended a boarding school for daughters of the clergy in Derbyshire, continuing into the sixth form which numbered seven students! She applied for entry to Cambridge but was deemed to be too young so instead she enrolled at Bedford College, University of London to read philosophy. The demands of World War 2 determined that Bedford College would relocate to Cambridge so in a way her original ambition was realised. It was whilst living in digs at Cambridge that she met her future husband Christopher who was a fellow boarder at the house. They married during World War 2 and Stella served as a Lady Almoner, what we would call today a social worker, at the Brompton Hospital. Meanwhile Christopher was serving in the 8th Army in the Western Desert and Italy. At the end of the war he joined the Civil Service and the family settled in Court Lane in 1951. A secondment to the NATO HQ in Paris meant that Stella and their three daughters accompanied him and they lived in Paris for three years. Coming back to Dulwich in 1957 they moved into Calton Avenue. Latterly Stella lived in Dovercourt Road.
Once in Dulwich, Stella volunteered to work for the Care in the Community scheme at Sudbourne School, Brixton and then took a teaching certificate and taught at Rosendale Junior School where she remained until her retirement in 1980. She remained in education by helping with pupils’ reading at Dog Kennel Hill School. She then started on her third career, as an active member of the Dulwich community.
She was an early recruit to Dulwich Picture Gallery and one of its first volunteer guides. Gillian Wolfe says that the education programme at the Gallery began through an idea Stella suggested to the then Director, Giles Waterfield. As he had earlier been in charge of education at the Royal Pavilion at Brighton he was very keen. Stella was the first person to support Gillian’s efforts on her appointment to the Gallery in 1984 and she continued to be associated with the Gallery as a guide and teacher and at one time had responsibility for the garden.
At the same time she also became a very active member of The Dulwich Society and was chairman of the Trees Committee for over twenty five years. Her most significant success was her campaign, in the company of Ronnie Reed and David Freeman to preserve an area of Dulwich Woods which was under threat of redevelopment for housing. Stella also had a keen eye for an open space that needed trees, or several, and over the years she saw the planting of trees in Horniman Triangle, Long Meadow (Gipsy Hill), and Belair Park. Full of ideas, she was delighted that her scheme for a map of Dulwich’s notable trees came to fruition and was so successful that it was reprinted and is now in its second edition. In latter years she turned her attention to arranging an autumn coach outing to look at trees outside of Dulwich. These trips were always oversubscribed and most rewarding.
Somehow Stella also found time to be an active member of the Dulwich Park Friends. In that capacity one of her great achievements was to oversee the planting of the copse and nature trail in the Park, made possible by a winding-up donation by the Dulwich Village Preservation Society in 2007. Now, seven years later, the copse is well established and there is a shady native woodland in a corner of the park. She also joined Isaac Marks in the creation of the winter garden in the Bandstand Field thereby creating a splash of colour in a barren season of the year.
Stella received more than one civic award from Southwark Council and typically she wanted to know what all the fuss was about. The thought of being honoured for her work never entered her head. Her mind and sense of humour were fully active until the last. She joked that she would like to be visited by anyone with a bad cold or chest infection to speed her departure.