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104 year old's appeal to find long-lost sister she hasn't seen in 90 years

A 104-year-old has been stirred to try and find a sister she hasn’t seen in 90 years and cannot recollect.

Phyllis Furness ran away from home when she was 15 and never returned. At the time, her sister would have been one.

It was a conversation with a home-help, who introduced herself as Charmaine, that sparked a memory in Phyllis that she had once had a sister called Freda Charmaine.

Phyllis Furness.
Phyllis Furness.

She is now keen to know what happened to her, what she was like as a person, and, if possible, to be put in touch with her, if she is still alive.

Phyllis was born Phyllis Ryder at Vernon Street in Newark, where she and her parents and elder siblings lived until they moved to Sleaford, where Phyllis was educated.

Her memory is vivid in every respect other than that of her younger sister.

For instance, she remembers witnessing a first world war Zeppelin airship attack, the blitz of the second world war and the bombing of her local tube station.

“I’m looking for the sister I never knew,” said Phyllis.

“She was 14 years younger than me so there is every chance she is still living.

“In those days you left school at 14 to start work. I fell out with my father and left home at 15, never to return.

“The funny thing is that I don’t remember a baby in the house, yet she would have been a year old. I come up blank and I have a good memory.”

Phyllis Furness. (34057082)
Phyllis Furness. (34057082)

Phyllis’ older siblings were sister Dorothy Ada and brother Frederick Bessaneau.

“I’m 105 next month and have wondered what happened to everyone.

“It is most likely that my brother died. Did he even survive the second world war? But then why do I have to be the only one who has lived for so long? Maybe we are a family that has longevity genes,” she said.

“I’m fit for a marathon.”

When Phyllis ran away she moved in her with one of three older step-sisters.

“Even if we manage to find her I don’t know whether she would want to hear from me. I think I was the black sheep of the family,” Phyllis said.

“They say you should never speak ill of the dead, but my father was a sadist. He was a boozer and would come blind drunk. He was fond of giving us a good hiding.

“I did hear though that he turned himself around towards the end, that my mother was comfortable in her later years.”

Phyllis now lives in Galway, Ireland, having moved there with her late husband, John, when he retired.

Phyllis was a specialist bomb-maker in the war, when she met her husband-to-be.

John bought a fleet of lorries and went into the haulage and storage business after he was demobbed.

John died in 1984, three years after they moved to Ireland. Their only child, a son, died in 2012, aged 69.

Phyllis has a granddaughter, who lives in Australia, and they speak using iPad twice a week.

“I’ve had a good life,” Phyllis said: “My doctor says I am one of his healthiest patients.

“Since the age of 15 I have looked after myself. Freda Charmaine is the missing bit of the puzzle. It would be nice to have someone living.”

If you know of Freda Charmaine, or any of the family, contact the Advertiser on 01636 681234 or email news@newarkadvertiser.co.uk

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