Grand dame of Whitehall Garden Centre dies, aged 105
Tributes have been paid to Phyllis Self, the oldest boss in Britain, following her death this week, at the age of 105.
She worked as a corporate director at the Whitehall Garden Centre for more than 40 years, driving there every day from her Lacock home, until she finally retired two years ago.
She died at home on Sunday with her family at her bedside.
Her son John Self, a vicar in Birmingham, said: “Many of the employees have fond memories of her. She found it a great pleasure to employ so many people, and took a great pride in remembering all their names.”
Mrs Self was awarded an MBE for services to the community by the Queen in 2008, and made headlines across the country as the nation’s oldest boss.
Mr Self said: “She was interested in people; that’s one of the reasons she didn’t want to retire, as she enjoyed working too much.
“So many people knew her. Lots of people have memories of seeing her in the garden centre; customers would come up to ask how she was, and she was always out greeting them.
“She was very proud of her MBE, she had a little pin from it she would wear every day, right to the end.”
Originally from Cheshire, she moved to Melksham in the 1930s, before marrying farmer Rowland Self and settling in Lacock, where the family opened the Whitehall Centre in 1972, and later opening a second store in Bristol. Her son Christopher later joined the business, and two of her grandsons, Peter and Mark, also took an interest over the years.
A familiar face in the village, Mrs Self founded the Lacock Mothers’ Union, and arranged flowers at St Cyriac’s Church. She was also named honoury president of the Chippenham Flower Club.
Church verger Polly Moore said: “Everyone knew her because she was incredibly hardworking, she could make any man look a bit lazy, and we all feel better for having known her.
“Her 100th birthday celebrations were incredible, and there’s still a banner made for her birthday by the children at the Sunday school hanging in the church.”
Janet Doel also worked with her at St Cyriac’s. She said: “She was a wonderful, wonderful lady, not many like her come your way.”
Mrs Self’s funeral will take place at St Cyriac’s next Wednesday, October 9, at 2pm.
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