Mrs. Gertrude Caldwell

Mrs. Gertrude Caldwell, who has died aged 93, was the wife of the late Canon John Caldwell, who was rector of Kilmegan and Maghera Church of Ireland parishes for many years.

She passed away on March 14 in a nursing home in Winchester, England, and had suffered from Alzheimers in the last years of her life.

Mrs. Caldwell, who was known to her family and friends as Gertie, was born in Londonderry on January 12, 1919. She moved with her family to Duncairn Gardens in Belfast where she grew up. She left school to work in the office of her uncle’s sweet factory and later moved on to an insurance company office.

At this time she had two abiding interests which were to influence the rest of her life. She loved singing and had joined Duncairn Presbyterian Church choir. She also had a great belief in helping others and joined the Red Cross. During the war years she and her sister, Gwen, gave selflessly of their time to the Red Cross and won cups for the best Red Cross cadets in Northern Ireland.

She met her future husband when he was a young curate at St. Aidan’s in Belfast. They were married on June 8, 1948, at St. Peter’s Parish Church, Belfast, and there she began her ministry as a clergyman’s wife.

She dedicated her life to raising her four children, John, Harry, Trevor and Hilary, and supporting her husband. The family’s formative years were spent at Dundrum in a rectory described as “grand but draughty.” There were holidays in Portrush and Portstewart and summer afternoons at Murlough and Tyrella.

When a major refit of Kilmegan Parish Church was carried out in the 1970s, she went around for months on end collecting from parishioners. The rectory garden was an additional source of income, with raspberries being sold for church funds. The rectory children and their friends were often drawn into pulling a stone of raspberries for one lady or another.

Dress-making was also a passion and many a long evening was spent trying to get the latest dress ready for wear, both for her daughter and herself.

Mrs. Caldwell had a very caring nature and was disappointed when she was unable to become a trainee nurse owing to her height — she was 4’ 11” and the height restriction was five feet. Nonetheless, she carried her love of caring into her life and was always willing to visit the sick and needy, bringing comfort and ease.

Cruelly, she suffered from Alzheimers in the last years of her life. Her husband cared for her in the initial stages of her illness, taking her for drives in her beloved Mourne Mountains and for tea in Warrenpoint.

As the disease developed the couple resided at River House in Newcastle and, later, at The Tiled House in Winchester when her husband could no longer cope. Although she could not speak or move in her last years, the love of Jesus shone through.

The Rev. Chris Carson conducted the funeral service in Maghera Parish Church on Friday, March 23. Mrs. Caldwell is survived by her children, six grandsons and two granddaughters.