Delia Hughes

11 April, 192720 September, 2022
Delia was born Bridgette O’Dwyer in Kilkenny, Ireland on April 11th, 1927. At the age of 4 her mother died and she was adopted by Mary Constance and Ben Digby and went to live in London, England and was christened Delia Digby. She grew up as an only child, and her father, whom she cites as being the most influential person to her as a child, passed away when she was 11. For reasons of safety during the second world war, she was sent to attend the Lourdes Convent for Girls in Brighton, South England, from 1938-1944. Her favourite subject was art, and she described herself as both an avid tennis and lacrosse player, even winning her school tennis championship in 1943. As you can imagine, Delia was very sociable throughout her school years, and had many friends. While at boarding school, she visited each of her loving and kind grandmothers whenever she had a holiday. Grandma Digby lived in Northampton and Grandma Spittle lived in Croydon, near London. Delia's most vivid memory of staying in Croydon was watching the dogfights in the skies overhead. After graduating high school in 1944, she was one of 26 students accepted into the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), one of 3 top acting schools in the world. As many of you know, Delia often reminisced fondly of her two years at the college where she starred in many plays including Shakespeare’s “As You like It”, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” two of her favorites. Attending RADA at the same time as Delia and in her class, was Sir Roger Moore, who later starred as James Bond in seven movies. When I was 9, he wrote Mum a long letter reminiscing about RADA and sent Mum, Megan and I autographed pictures which we all treasured. At the same time I remember my Dad was not too impressed by all this, for some reason! One of the nurses at the hospice upon hearing of Mum’s connection to the “Bond Legend”, remarked that Mum was in fact, the first “Bond girl”. She would have chuckled and deeply appreciated that connection! Her first role, following RADA, was in a play called 'Quiet Weekend'. She was 19 and played understudy to the lead role, eventually taking it over. The play was intended to entertain the Armed Forces during 1946. They toured all over England and in 22 cities throughout Germany. After this, she did what she considers to be one of her hardest jobs: doing repertory theatre in York. Repertory theatre is where you have to read a new play on Monday, rehearse it during the week, and be ready to perform it by Friday. For the first four nights of the week you perform the play you had learned the previous week and then on Friday perform the play you had learned during that week. Therefore, you have to know two full plays at all times. Her Repertory Theatre work was followed by being cast in two films: Uneasy Terms and Saraband for Dead Lovers with actors Michael Rennie, Moira Lister, Faith Brook, Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood. This was exciting and rewarding work for her. After the second world war ended, Delia went through what she called a "resting" period, as acting jobs were being given in priority to the troops who had just returned from the war. She took a job at Fortnum and Mason, the well-known department store in England, and trained as a buyer. She worked there for a year with a group of eight other girls. When one of them was offered the job as a governess in Cuba and couldn't take it, she offered it to Delia who jumped at the chance. While in Cuba, Delia taught an eight-year-old girl, the daughter of a wealthy sugar-mill family, in every subject except for Spanish. Delia did, however, become fluent in that language during her stay. She lived a very elegant life there and had both her own apartment and maid. During her two year stay in Cuba, she experienced the most memorable travel experiences of her life, a trip to the Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia followed by sailing across the Atlantic on the SS America to Paris. While in Paris she visited all of the couture houses, among them Chanel and Dior. "We would go to the Dior collection one day and then to Lanvin the next. It was a whole other world." A few months before the end of her stay in Cuba, Delia's mother, Molly, flew over to Montreal from London, to visit her brother who had immigrated there. Delia flew up to meet her and they ended up falling in love with Montreal. They decided to move there and got an apartment together on Peel Street, which houses many of the McGill University buildings today. It was while she was in that city that she met her future husband, Lyn. They both belonged to the same tennis club and one day she lost her tennis racquet. Lyn found it and Delia described the encounter as love at first sight. She was 26, he was 29. She fondly recollected the time she sold her pearl necklace to pay for his final year at McGill where he was getting his BSc in Science. Years later, he replaced it on their 21st anniversary. They were married for 45 years before he passed away from a heart attack in 1998. From 1952-1979, Delia lived in Montreal and then Ottawa where her daughters Debbie and Megan were born and raised. While in Montreal in 1962, she had a ballet school in her basement where she taught, bilingually in both French and English, children aged 3-10. After moving to the Gatineau Hills, just North of Ottawa, she was hired as the Drama and Improvisation teacher at Philemon Wright High School and together with husband Lyn started an after-school drama club, directing numerous plays together. Later, together they opened a small shop called "The Crystal Cave' which was split into Delia's specialty of custom-made garments, and Lyn's of being a jeweler and horologist (clock repairs). In 1979 she and Lyn then returned to England in order to look after their ailing parents, but then stayed for the next 30 years. Delia’s mother lived to be 104, receiving four letters from the Queen. At the same time, they moved their business to Angmering-On-Sea near Brighton. Idyllically, they purchased a cottage on the South Coast aptly named "Lovely Cottage." After living alone for 13 years following Lyn's death from a heart attack in 1998, Delia decided to return to Canada in 2011. She wistfully described the hardest part of leaving England as leaving behind not only some of her extended family but also her bright yellow convertible Mini Cooper with a black top. However, she has a much more active lifestyle here in Canada than back in England, and enjoys living close to her family, as well as having a multitude of friends. Delia had two daughters, Debbie and Megan, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren who were a joy to her. Her eldest daughter Debbie who lives in Edmonton has two children: Bryn (42), who is regional special needs principal in the Parkland School Division, together with his wife Juanita, have two girls: Addie is 13 and Danae is 10. Eiry (38) who owns a vet clinic in Alberta, is married to Ben and together they have two boys: Berwyn who just turned 6 and Arthen who is 3. Delia's youngest daughter, Megan, along with her husband Gordon own a local West Vancouver business called Humanities Financial and have two girls following in their parents’ footsteps: Kate (29) is a self-employed businesswoman and Lauren (27) just completed exams for her CGA. Delia Digby Hughes was Delia's stage name. Over her lifetime, she starred in or directed over 20 plays. At the ripe age of 85 she was so proud of herself for taking up acting again after a long hiatus, playing major roles at West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Theatre including “Murder on the Nile”, “And Then There Were None” and “Fawlty Towers”. Around this time she also became fascinated with technology and Megan and the family were patient teachers. A quick and confident learner, she began to regularly send emails and texts friends and family on her iPhone 6 plus, and watched Downton Abbey and Poirot on Netflix and BritBox on her iPad or 63” flatscreen TV. She loved her pink Apple watch and made sure to re-charge it every night ready for the next day so she could get her emails and calls when she wasn’t at home. These skills certainly came in handy during the pandemic. Just before Christmas in 2020, at the height of COVID-19, and the start of a long, dark winter, the lockdowns and travel restrictions were firmly in place and affecting everyone. Delia was feeling very isolated, alone in her one-bedroom apartment. Her daughters were afraid to visit her and were unsure how to help her, other than phoning her every day. Then they had a brainstorm idea. Lynnda Sharp, an Edmonton-based yoga teacher, was already teaching yoga online on Zoom, so the next step was getting Mum connected! It didn’t take long to set her up; once we got the sound right and encouraged her to move a few feet away from the camera so we could see more than her forehead, it was smooth sailing! For the next 2 years she clicked on the Zoom link and enjoyed a weekly half-hour yoga class – 1,200 km away from her teacher! She became a yoga enthusiast and told her friends about how much she had learned and benefitted from the practice of yoga. When her friends heard about the classes, they were keen on starting a class too. However, when Mum would tell them that computers and Zoom software are involved, for some their eyes would glaze over and they would say, “Not me - I’m not interested in computers and definitely not Zoom!” However, one of her best friends Rita, who is a “techie” herself, did join a Zoom yoga class and has been a regular student for over two years. For Mum and her friend Rita, having something to look forward to each week, feeling connected with the outside world and having someone take an interest in them and their well-being, was crucial in maintaining their mental health, especially during COVID-19. Interestingly, way back in the 70’s Delia’s husband Lyn took up yoga but Delia wasn’t much interested in yoga back then. Sixty years later she was hooked! Delia lived life to the fullest and definitely with passion. Her favorite colour was “hot pink”, and her clothes certainly reflected that! She loved her apartment overlooking Burrard Inlet and loved the sights and sounds of the ocean. She was convinced that doing crosswords daily and using her iPad and iPhone to play Words with Friends and Wordle kept her mind sharp. A strong Roman Catholic, she loved the people of this parish. For many years she enjoyed doing readings once a month, and for years afterwards she continued to coach new readers. She made many friends in West Vancouver and many people were heartbroken to hear she had passed. She lived by herself with minimal help from others until she fell and broke her arm on August 7. Lung issues were discovered upon being admitted to Lion’s Gate Hospital and due to this, sadly we lost a local icon on September 20, 2022. When asked, Delia always counselled others to always be kind to people, always think of others and do everything in moderation. Choose to be happy and don’t let worry rob you of enjoying your life. People loved Delia’s sense of humor and at the end she didn’t disappoint. When she knew her time was coming, she said, “Beam me up Scottie”! A celebration of Delia's life will be held Saturday, October 22, 2022 at 10:30 AM at St. Anthony's Catholic Parish, 2347 Inglewood Ave., West Vancouver, BC V7V 1Z9. Please note that Delia has specified that in lieu of flowers, "...donations if desired to the Paul Sugar Palliative Support Foundation. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Hughes family.

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Past Services

Saturday, 22 October, 2022

Celebration of Delia's Life