Teacher who worked at schools in Whittlesey, Stretham and Littleport prepares to celebrate her 100th birthday

Stella Vail

Stella Vail - Credit: Archant

A former Fenland teacher who married during the last war – and even served as secretary of the home coming committee for returning servicemen- is about to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Her friends have rallied to ensure she gets a warm reception herself on Saturday as she celebrates the special day at Vera James House in Ely where she now lives.

Constance Stella Vail, known as Stella, was born on September 22, 1913 and lived all her life in Stretham until two years ago when she moved to Ely.

At the age of five, she started at Stretham School. Aged 10, she passed the scholarship exam to Ely High School.

During her time at Ely High School she won a number of prizes for her academic achievements and enjoyed sporting pastimes such as netball, hockey and tennis.

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Stella began her teaching career at Whittlesey infant school but moved later to her home village of Stretham where she taught for 13 years.

From the age of 14, Stella was a member of the village tennis club and later became secretary and ladies captain.

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An active member of St John Ambulance, at the start of the Second World War she was made cadet superintendant and continued with the brigade for 25 years.

She was heavily involved with Stretham’s Homecoming Committee, raising money for returning troops after the war and, as secretary, helped arrange whist drives and other events.

Stella married her first husband, Cyril Wesley, in 1944. The Stretham postman had returned from serving on the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

Despite the constraints of wartime rationing, the village rallied to give the couple a lovely wedding reception. However, six years later Cyril was diagnosed with cancer and lost his battle to the disease.

After Cyril’s death, Stella obtained a teaching post at Littleport Secondary School.

In 1958, Stella married for a second time, to George Vail. She taught at Littleport for a further 23 years.

Following retirement, Stretham Bowls Club found itself with two new members, with many competitions won by Stella and George.

George died after a short illness in 2001.

Friends say she retains a good memory for people and faces and enjoys hearing news of family, friends and of course, pupils.

One said: “In her centennial year she can still amaze those around her by effortlessly reciting the alphabet backwards.”

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