Vera at her 100th birthday with piper Esther Killington

A FORMER waitress who worked on a Spithead review for King George VI passed away soon after her 100th birthday.

Vera Gutsell was determined to reach three figures and celebrated with a special tea dance at her church in Clacton on March 1.

She sadly passed away on May 18.

During and after the Second World War, Mrs Gutsell was a Nippy - the name given to waitresses in the J Lyons & Co tea shops and cafes - at the Corner House, in Coventry Street, London.

Among the highlights of her career were the Spithead review for King George VI and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

She also worked at many other tea dances and outdoor catering events, including the famous tennis championships at Wimbledon.

She went on to work for the Metropolitan Police.

Like her parents and late husband, Hylton, known as Boxer, Mrs Gutsell spent much of her life in Corringham, attending Herd Lane School.

She lived there from the age of ten before retiring to Clacton.

More recently, she lived at the Luff House Care Home, in Walton.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Vera Gutsell (right) at Buckingham Palace

She regularly went on trips with dial-a-ride and enjoyed being taken out to hosted tea parties for the housebound elderly as part of the Contact the Elderly scheme - now renamed Re-engage.

Dementia and poor mobility meant she needed more than one person to care for her.

Sadly, after reaching her 100th birthday, the lockdown came and she could not cope with being separated from daughter Sue Ucel.

Sue said: "I spoke to her with difficulty on an iPad.

"She was unwell, coughed and I wanted her to be tested.

"However, we couldn't get it and I'm not sure she would have allowed anyone to test her, either.

"The sad isolation of the Covid-19 epidemic, being separated from me and not being able to get out and see her family meant she passed away peacefully in the evening on May 18.

"I feel she would still be here if it weren't for the lockdown because she was a strong person."

Mrs Gutsell will be remembered for her independence, strength and determination in wanting to get to 100.

Her family were grateful for a wonderful birthday party and she was so proud of her letter from the Queen.

"We had a tea dance at her church, in the same style as the ones where she used to work as a young woman in Coventry Street, with two lovely young ladies who dressed as she did to serve tea," added Sue.

In addition to Sue, Mrs Gutsell also leaves a son, Gordon, who lives in Cape Town, seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, four nephews and five nieces.