Obituary: Tributes pour in for beloved Taverham dinner and lollipop lady

Tributes have poured in for Taverham dinner lady, Celia Underwood, who died on March 15.

Tributes have poured in for Taverham dinner lady, Celia Underwood, who died on March 15. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

The family of a retired dinner lady have spoken about her dedication to the children she worked with and her unwavering faith.

Born in Syston, Leicestershire, on October 28, 1951 Celia Underwood was the second child of four behind brother John, before being siblings followed by Robert and Richard.

After attending all-girls Worcester Grammar School her parents, Walter and Joan Underwood, moved the family to Barkham in Berkshire.

Celia Underwood with her husband Harold Underwood.

Celia Underwood with her husband Harold Underwood. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

This is where Celia would meet her husband-to-be, Harold, who worked for St John's Ambulance.

Fiona Underwood, Celia's eldest daughter, said: "They first met through their parish All Saints Church in Reading.

"The funny thing was they used to get asked if they were related as they had the same surname.

"They got married at All Saints Church a few years later, in 1975.

Celia Underwood with her three brothers, John, Robert and Richard Underwood.

Celia Underwood with her three brothers, John, Robert and Richard Underwood. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

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"Mum always used to joke it was an easy wedding as she didn't have to change her surname."

Two years after marrying, Celia and Harold had their first daughter, Fiona, before welcoming their second, Theresa in 1979. 

Fiona said: "She was very funny and always wore clashing colours and styles - it looked like she had just come out of a jumble sale.

"Then as I started school, at Ridgeway Primary in Reading, mum became a dinner lady and lollipop lady there - it was very embarrassing.

Celia Underwood with her daughters Fiona and Theresa Underwood, and husband Harold Underwood.

Celia Underwood with her daughters Fiona and Theresa Underwood, and husband Harold Underwood. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

"But she loved kids and acted in a mother hen-type role for them all.

"She was so protective. She once hit a car with her lollipop stick when they didn't stop - she was definitely feisty."

In 1987 Celia and Harold made the move to Victoria Road, in Taverham, where they would stay for the rest of their lives.

Fiona added: "We had to relocate because of dad's job but weren't unhappy to move - we'd already been on holiday to the Broads before.

Celia Underwood moved to Taverham with her husband, Harold Underwood, in 1987.

Celia Underwood moved to Taverham with her husband, Harold Underwood, in 1987. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

"Mum and dad were both at the first service, in St Edmund's Church, when they arrived.

"She also carried on as a dinner lady at Taverham Junior School where she became very popular with the kids there.

"Mum absolutely loved doing the job - she stayed until she had to retire at 65 - and even then she wanted to stay on for a little while longer.

"Several people have said they remember her from their school days, as well as their children - she spanned a couple of generations there."

Celia Underwood and Harold Underwood got married at All Saints Church in 1975.

Celia Underwood and Harold Underwood got married at All Saints Church in 1975. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

Due to Harold's ill health, Celia took on the role as his carer after she retired while also helping her children.

Fiona said: "Mum used to look after Theresa's two kids quite a lot and she absolutely loved having them around.

"She also did so much work for the community as well, whether that was providing food and drink at the church fates or volunteering at the local charity shop - she just liked to do good things whenever she could."

Even when Celia's health began to deteriorate, her faith stayed as strong as ever throughout.

Celia Underwood was a dinner lady for most of her career and had a passion for working with children.

Celia Underwood was a dinner lady for most of her career and had a passion for working with children. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

Fiona said: "During lockdown dad said that mum was getting confused at times and she had a couple of falls. 

"Things kept getting worse - her mental capacity was slowly degrading.

"Even so she still stayed close to the church - through lockdown I used to help her watch the church services online."

Celia was taken to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in September 2021 and stayed there until she died on March 15, aged 70.

Fiona said: "Pneumonia, Covid sickness and delirium was listed as causes of death.

Tributes have poured in for Taverham dinner lady, Celia Underwood, who died on March 15.

Tributes have poured in for Taverham dinner lady, Celia Underwood, who died on March 15. - Credit: Fiona Underwood

"We were hoping she would improve and come out but it never happened - it was very difficult to get our heads around.

"We've received so many cards from people who knew her though and we're taking strength in the fact she was such a nice person - taken too soon.

"We say do not cry that she is gone, but be happy she lived."

Celia's funeral takes place on April 8 at St Edmund's Church in Taverham.