As a Manchester homemaker during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, my mother, Phyllis Mitton, who has died aged 97, was the archetypal make do and mender – sewing, tailoring, knitting, toymaking, crocheting, baking and cooking to the highest standards. She was always creative in the home, and ensured that laughter was in the fabric of the house, where hobbies were everywhere and pets featured heavily.
Phyllis was born in Birch, near Heywood in Lancashire (now part of Greater Manchester), to Ada Carney, who worked on the family farm near Birch, and Robert Pearson, who worked in a tannery. Her mother died when she was 18, and her father three years later, after an accident at the tannery. Thereafter Phyllis and her maternal grandfather, Michael Carney, looked after her four younger siblings.
After leaving Regent Street Girls’ school in Heywood, Phyllis worked as a telephone operator at Oldham fire station during the second world war, and also at the RAF base in Heywood, disentangling parachutes. Around that time she met Bill Mitton, who was on leave from the Royal Navy, at a dance in Rochdale town hall, and they married in 1945.
Settling down in Heywood to raise their two sons, Harry and me, she and Bill, who became a bus driver and then an insurance agent, would go dancing twice weekly. Phyllis also joined the Heywood Townswomen’s Guild drama section, becoming its local chair and, subsequently, president. Rehearsals took place alongside family life in the front room.
Great animal lovers, she and Bill bred and showed rabbits, and when times were tough they even put them into the odd stew. Later they moved to nearby Preesall and her local church, St Oswalds, became a big part of her life. She was a member of the Mothers’ Union for more than 75 years.
In her 50s, she and her friend Ida Davies ran a bric-a-brac stall in TommyField market in Oldham so they could raise money to travel with their husbands to visit European cities. That was typical of Phyllis’s attitude – if you couldn’t do something, you should work out how to achieve your goal and get on with it.
She loved cycling, and would visit relatives on her bike or go shopping with a Corgi on a basket up front. She continued to do so into her 80s, but lost mobility in her mid-90s, after which she moved to live with me in Garstang. Even so, she never lost her love of life, entertaining visitors or keeping carers on their mettle. She died while watching The Sound of Music as Mother Superior sang Climb Every Mountain.
Bill died in 2000. She is survived by Harry and me, three grandchildren, Marcia, Richard and Tony, four great-grandchildren, Megan, Jena, Charlotte and Blake, and her sister, Alice.