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Farewell to Norwich's English rose

PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:16 01 July 2010

Frank and Margaret Shepard on their wedding day in 1944

Frank and Margaret Shepard on their wedding day in 1944

Kate Scotter

She was one of the first GI brides, a name given to British women who found love with US troops during the Second World War.

Kate Scotter

She was one of the first GI brides, a name given to British women who found love with US troops during the second world war.

And when Margaret Shepard, nee Rix, moved to America in the name of true love she became regarded as a true "English rose".

Today, tributes were paid to Mrs Shepard, who died at the residential home where she lived in Gig Harbor, Washington, USA, on May 26.

She died at the age of 87 after a decline in her health over the last couple of years.

The mother-of-three first moved to the other side of the Atlantic when she was just 22 to be with her American sweetheart Frank.

The pair had fallen head over heels for each other after meeting at a dance in the Samson & Hercules in Norwich during the war.

They only had eyes for one another and they married in Norwich of 1944. A year later, Mrs Shepard left her family who lived in Stannard Road, Norwich, and was on her way to a new life in the USA.

Today, her daughter Jill Humphrey spoke of how she admired her mum's bravery and said how she will be greatly missed.

Mrs Humphrey, 53, who lives in Roedich Drive, Taverham, said: "She was very kind-hearted and was very active in her church.

"She would send cards to people who were unable to get out and would always remember them on special occasions.

"She was a wonderful woman, she really was - a lovely lady all around who always cared about other people.

"I miss being able to speak to her. She always offered sage advice and she could always understand."

Mrs Humphrey, who moved to Norwich to be with her husband Roger, had travelled over to America to be with her mum at the time of her death.

Her mother was one of the women known in the post-war era as the "GI brides". She had caught a ship from Southampton in secret, together with other GI brides, and three weeks later arrived in New York.

It was during the boat trip she first tasted olives and in America, unlike England where food was still rationed, was able to eat rich foods such as real milk, ice cream and cheese.

She lived with her husband's family on a ranch in "the middle of nowhere" before she was later joined by Mr Shepard and they were together at last. Once Mr Shepard was discharged from the forces they moved to Juneau, Alaska, and later lived in Aurora, Colorado.

They enjoyed 43 years of married life and had one daughter and two sons, Tony, now 63, who lives in Washington, USA, and Glen, who died in 2002. Frank Shepard passed away in 1987.

Mrs Humphrey, who works at the UEA and has a son Kellan, who lives in San Diego, said: "I was really amazed by what mum did and how she was able to be so brave.

"Back then, there was no communication like there is now so when someone left for another country, they never knew when they would see their family again.

"She did come back to Norwich at least 10 times and although she became very American, she never lost her accent and never lost her allegiance to England - she would love to talk about England if anyone noticed her accent and her friends called her an English rose."

A memorial service for Mrs Shepard will be held in Norwich in August. Details are yet to be confirmed.

Ü Do you want to pay tribute to a loved one? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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