Generous Southwick woman remembered

Myrna Stowell with her son, Andy Stowell, outside the Royal George carvery in Shoreham, her favourite place to eat out.
Myrna Stowell with her son, Andy Stowell, outside the Royal George carvery in Shoreham, her favourite place to eat out.

A SOUTHWICK woman known for her generous spirit is to be remembered with a memorial bench.

Residents who received birthday gifts from Myrna Stowell are now giving something back by raising money for the tribute.

Myrna Stowell as a young woman, the image that was placed on her coffin at the funeral service

Myrna Stowell as a young woman, the image that was placed on her coffin at the funeral service

A popular character in the area, Myrna died aged 79 on December 29. She was always seen with her beloved dog, Barney, which became something of a celebrity in the town.

Her son, Andy Stowell, said Myrna had an amazing capacity for remembering numbers.

“She would always ask a stranger she met for their birthday and would remember it forever. She knew three generations of children who grew up in Southwick. She would give children a £1 coin for their birthday, and when that child grew up and had children of their own, the cycle would be repeated.”

Myrna had lived in Cross Road for 35 years but she was born in Bhusawal, now known as Mumbai, in India on October 15, 1935.

Mr Stowell said: “As an Anglo-Indian, life would become very difficult when India gained their independence. She emigrated to Brighton around 1955, following both her father and mother, who had separated and were living in Brighton and London.

“In India, Anglo-Indians were regarded as a separate race, not a true Indian. In England, despite being a British subject, they were regarded as not being English either, so the feeling of disconnection among Anglo-Indians was very strong.

“In 59 years of living in England, my mother was only ever granted a one-year passport, to visit Portugal for a holiday. My grandfather was never granted a passport, despite working for London Transport for 35 years.”

Myrna loved to play bingo and once featured in a Channel 4 documentary about bingo ladies.

Mr Stowell, who lives in Australia, said: “She always believed her fortunes would change in an instant.

“I was astounded at her mental capacity for numbers. She had six books going at once and an electronic bingo game running, which was set into the glass table. Then she would scold me if I missed a number on my three books - she was reading mine as well, upside down!”

In their twice-weekly phone calls over nearly20 years, Myrna would always tell her son about the people in Southwick, their children and other dogs that frequented Southwick Green or Croft Avenue Rest Gardens.

But Myrna dreamed of one day returning to India and the life she remembered.

“She would never believe that the India she knew was no longer there,” said Mr Stowell

“About ten years ago, I managed to convince the Australian government to allow her to emigrate, to be with me. I had even arranged for her beloved Barney to come, too.

“However, despite showing her drawings of the home I would build for her in our back garden, she would not leave Southwick. Many people would attest to the fact my Mum was very stubborn, if she had made up her mind she would not budge.”