As a young woman in wartime Bristol, Grace Strong persuaded an air raid warden to allow her to dash back into a bomb-blitzed factory where she’d been making uniforms.
She needed to rescue her dress making shears because she could not work without them and the next day, she was re-employed making parachutes at the former Andersons factory in Stokes Croft.
Now Grace, who still lives in the terraced house in Verrier Road, Redfield, where she was born, is fast approaching her 100th birthday and as a lifelong stalwart of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, had a special celebratory Mass said in her honour.
Grace was married at St Patrick’s and even borrowed chairs from the church for her wedding breakfast and, as yet another close family link, her late husband Gilbert helped to build St Patrick’s School while working as a hod carrier at the time.
When World War Two broke out Gilbert joined the Royal Artillery but was drafted into the cookhouse and became an army cook.
Parish priest, the Rev Canon Gregory Grant, said Grace is regarded by all as a legend in the parish and was a stalwart supporter and familiar face in the St Patrick’s charity shop in Church Road for some 22 years.
“She even became known as ‘Apple Pie Grace’ for always baking 100 delicious apple pies and storing them in her freezer in the run up to our annual church fete,” he recalled.
“That’s why I was so pleased to be able to say a special Mass of celebration for Grace, whose whole life has been so centred on St Patrick’s, on Sunday 25th April,” said Canon Grant.
“Her life, so devoted to her family, the community and to God, is an example to us all,” he added.
Grace, who attended Mass accompanied by her son David and daughter-in-law Joan, was 100 on 26th, but the big celebration with family and close friends is being delayed until after all the Covid restrictions are lifted.
Picture: Grace proudly shows off a ‘100’ card… with an apple pie on standby.