Wife, mother, nanna, sister, aunt and friend. Born Jan. 4, 1925, in Zephyr, Ont.; died March 24, 2012, on the Isle of Man, of natural causes at age 87.
Marguerite Dowty was born on the kitchen table in the hamlet of Zephyr, Ont., in 1925. She was the middle of five children raised by her third-generation immigrant farming parents Annie B. and John Lockie. John was a successful farmer but lost his entire life savings in the stock market crash. He made all of his money back in a matter of 10 years, but died suddenly of a heart attack leaving Annie to run the farm and raise five children.
More than once Marguerite watched her mother pore over bills wondering how to make ends meet. As a young girl she was determined to never have to worry about such troubles.
When she was 16 her mother went down the road to pick up Marguerite’s driver’s licence, as children raised on the farm who could drive a tractor didn’t need a driver’s test. She attended Newmarket High School where she was a weekly boarder, because there was no easy transport from Zephyr only 30 kilometres away.
After graduating from dental hygienist college she travelled with her friend Joan to work at a resort in the Bahamas for the season, fall 1948 to winter 1949. Here she was spotted by a British industrialist, George Dowty, who determined to marry this beauty at first sight.
He proposed in the Bahamas and returned to Zephyr in order to ask Annie B for permission. Since he was about the same age as Annie (Annie was 48 and George was 47), everyone thought he was coming to court Annie and not Marguerite.
Once it was agreed they'd marry he returned to England to his business. Marguerite and her mother as well as her two sisters, Marion and Grace, travelled to England by ocean liner to complete final preparations for the wedding. They were put up in at the posh Lillybrook Lodge in Cheltenham for a month while they got organized for the wedding.
They married later that year in 1949, moving into Arle Court, a grand estate in Cheltenham, which was very much like living above the shop. George’s office was a mere 50 yards down the corridor where late-night meetings with dignitaries and business leaders would spill over into the house at the well-stocked bar.
They had two children, Virginia and George, who were intimately involved in all of the fair openings, Ascot and Cheltenham races, as well as regular nights at the Savoy.
In 1956 she met the Queen when George was knighted for his contributions to the war effort.
She never left Canada far behind and would travel home several times a year to visit friends and family in Newmarket and Zephyr. Even very late in her life she never missed the Fowl Supper at the Zephyr United Church. Although the turkey and trimmings were important, the blueberry pie was the highlight.
Marguerite also insisted on going to lunch counter at Woolworth’s to get the best grilled cheese in the world.
As children of an exotic aunt living a fairy-tale life in England, we were often swept up by the romance of being met at Heathrow in a Silver Cloud Rolls-Royce that even a country bumpkin from the colony could recognize as a very “cool thing.”
When Sir George retired they moved to the Isle of Man, a blustery cold and remote island in the middle of the Irish Sea where she remained surrounded by her extended family until her death.
Although Marguerite left the farm and became a grand lady she was still a country girl at heart who loved nothing more than spending time with her family.
Elizabeth Hunt is Marguerite’s niece.
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