One of the country’s oldest women and a former mayoress of Chesterfield has passed away.
Friends and family have paid tribute to Marjorie Willett, who died peacefully in her sleep last Thursday after reaching the grand old age of 108.
One of seven children, Mrs Willett was born in Staveley in 1906. After leaving school at the age of 14, she worked in a milliner’s shop in Glumangate, Madame Lucille’s, where she quickly became the manageress.
In 1931, aged 25, she married Basil Crosbie Willett. He had founded Willet’s Sweets, located near the Crooked Spire, making and supplying hand-made traditional and boiled sweets.
She later went into business as Marjorie Willett Ladies Outfitters in Cavendish Street. For 25 years she provided her loyal customers with exclusive hand-picked fashions from her fortnightly buying trips to London.
Mr and Mrs Willett became mayor and mayoress of Chesterfield in 1971. They attended more than 50 events, with many boosting charity. In one event they raised £1,200 for an electrocardiograph for Walton Hospital and at a charity swim Mrs Willett completed an unplanned lap of Queen’s Park swimming pool. Mrs Willett always spoke fondly of her time as mayoress, especially when she and her husband visited Darmstadt, Chesterfield’s German twin, in April 1972.
Even after she handed over her chains of office, Mrs Willett’s charity and community work continued. She served on the management committee at Scarsdale Hospital and as a governor at William Rhodes School. She also actively fundraised for Multiple Sclerosis research.
During her extremely busy and active life Mrs Willett brought up three children and leaves a son, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Her family said: “Her smart appearance and dignified, temperate approach to life will be remembered and missed by all.”
The joint-oldest woman in the East Midlands, Mrs Willett said the secret to her longevity was “brandy in my milk in the evening”.
Her funeral will take place at Chesterfield Crematorium at 10.30am on Monday.