My Auntie Dod - A Tribute
[with a little help from her four daughters]

Auntie Dod at her 90th birthday party in April 2019.

Dorothy Elizabeth Hobbs was an aunt of mine.  In recent years she became my favourite aunt - indeed, it was not long before she became my only aunt.  She was always known as Auntie Dod, not Aunt Dorothy and certainly never Auntie Doddy.  She was also the wife of Jack, my mother’s half-sister, the mother of four daughters and, all in all, a good woman. 

She was also my godmother.  Fancy, a nonconformist like me having such a titled ecclesiastical guardian!  My earliest memory of her was as she propelled me as a three-year-old in my pushchair along the High Street in Cherry Hinton from St Andrew’s Church to a party in Mill End Close on the day I had been christened.  She gave me my first Bible on that day, Saturday 26 November 1950.  This illustrated Authorised Version is still on my bookshelf, though largely unmarked and unread, except now and again when I want to check a variant from my much-read New International Version.  She was a traditional Anglican, through and through.  So each Easter and Christmas and wedding anniversary she sent us cards, almost without fail.  And she hardly ever missed sending me an Easter egg – for 60 or so years.  And there were regular jars of home-made pickled onions delivered in person when I was a student at Leeds University.  Am I going to miss her?!  When we thought of words to describe her we decided on ‘kind’, closely followed by ‘gentle’.  Those are great Christian characteristics – 1 Corinthians 13:4 and Philippians 4:5. 

Dorothy Elizabeth Wallis was born on 3 April 1929 to Leonard and Elizabeth Wallis (née Linsey) in Cherry Hinton, Cambridge and they all lived at 7 Mill End Close.  Her father had previously been married to Ethel Peachey, my mother’s mother, who died when my Mum was only four years old.  Auntie Dod’s mother, my Auntie Beth, was a lovely, jolly woman with a house full of fun and laughter and cherry-flavoured Corona and family gatherings and a warm welcome.  I always remember, when Auntie Beth stayed with us, that she brought her Bible to read - it sat on her bedside table.  Some of this motherly mixture of cheerfulness and seriousness undoubtedly rubbed off on Auntie Dod.

Auntie Dod was bright.  She passed her 11+ exam and attended the Central High School in Cambridge.  She wanted to be a domestic science teacher, but at 14 she had to leave school because her father, Leonard Wallis, had died and the household needed an additional income.  She took on various office jobs in Cambridge, including one at the famous Heffer’s bookshop. 

In 1950, she met Jack Richard Hobbs at a holiday camp.  Apparently, she liked the look of him so, to get noticed, she pushed him into the swimming pool.  The ruse worked – the next year, they were married at St Andrew’s Church.  I was a somewhat unwelcome guest because I had contracted chickenpox, but I can just about recall, as a four-year-old, walking up the Church path in a new, oversized, light brown raincoat, and giving the couple a lucky horseshoe. They moved to Long Buckby, the Northampton village that was to be their home for the rest of their lives.  Jack was a partner in Partridge and Hobbs, the local building firm, and Auntie Dod did the books. 

At first, they lived on a road called Grasscroft.  I remember visiting them and camping in the adjacent field.  The house had exterior walls of sharp pebble-dash, which always seemed to cut my hands and legs.  Then they built a splendid house in West Street.  In later years, as old age took its toll, they moved to a local bungalow in Hammas Leys.  And finally, some three years after Uncle Jack died, Auntie Dod moved into the Jim Gillespie House, an Abbeyfield residential care home, in Rugby. 

They had four daughters – Mary, Brenda, Carolyn and Linda.  Life was inevitably becoming busier, but the indefatigable Auntie Dod prepared family meals, surprise picnics, chauffeured the girls to swimming and band practices and school events and organised those famous Hobbs' parties.  She and Jack needed little encouragement to throw a party whether it was a birthday or wedding anniversary or because it was merely a Saturday.  Their New Year’s Eve celebrations were legendary.  And there were the memorable meals out with the extended family at the delectable Pytchley restaurant, funded by ‘geyser money’, the proceeds of selling the scrap copper from the plumbing business. 

Later in life, Auntie Dod became the receptionist at the Long Buckby doctors’ surgery.  It was a demanding task, but she enjoyed it.  She retired once and was asked to return, which she willingly did.  Then there were other duties such as, in the church, on the rota for rugby match meals, as guide leader and involvement in Mother’s Union and Darby and Joan activities.  As a result, she knew almost everyone in the village.  In quieter moments, there were crosswords, jigsaws and reading.  Together they became surprisingly adventurous with vacations in America (twice) as well as Russia and Yugoslavia.  But it was family holidays in Barmouth and walking in the Lake District, always staying at the Lizzick Hall Hotel, that were their firm favourites. 

And Auntie Dod loved to sing, around the house and elsewhere.  As a young girl she was the first female in the Church choir in Cherry Hinton, and after Church she and others from the choir would gather for a sing-song around the piano played by her cousin, Fred Linsey.  She sang in the choir at St Lawrence’s.  Come Sundays or weddings or funerals, you always knew she was in the congregation because you heard that lovely soaring soprano voice of hers.  And as the years went by something strange began to happen.  She and my Mum, those half-sisters, became more and more similar.  It was not just those rosy cheeks and mops of white hair, they looked more alike and sounded more alike, whether talking or singing and especially in their infectious laughter.

Then, about eight years ago Auntie Dod developed a debilitating health condition.  It slowed her down physically, but her brightness shone on.  She rarely complained, and when she did, she would readily apologise.  It was in those last months that she became more serious about Bible truths and gospel comforts.

Dorothy Hobbs was certainly a good woman - stoical yet sweet, energetic yet modest.  She loved being around people.  No wonder all her family and friends miss her.  So do I.  After all, she was my favourite Auntie.  I was thankful that as the end approached we telephoned each other and spoke together more often than ever before.  Then, on 17 June 2019, she died a good death.  She was buried on 8 July at St Lawrence's Church, next to her beloved husband.  May she rest in peace and rise in glory!

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