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Award-winning Surbiton caterer and school governor dies aged 80
An award-winning caterer, who was made an MBE for her services to the industry, has died at the age of 80.
Sheila Mitchell, from Portsmouth Road, Surbiton, died on Monday, September 23, following a short illness.
Her funeral will be held at Kingston Crematorium later today.
This week family members, colleagues and staff from Maple Infants, where Miss Mitchell was the chair of governors, paid tribute.
Cousin Sylvia Barrows said: “Sheila was a kind and generous friend and godmother, always ready to help people, to shoulder a burden and to use her knowledge or experience to advise, open doors and to help make things happen.
“Her larger-than-life presence in our lives will be sorely missed.”
Miss Mitchell was born in Brighton in 1933. In 1940, her mother was killed when the family shop was bombed during the Blitz, and she was sent to live with an aunt – a professional cook.
By the late 50s, Ms Mitchell had moved to Surbiton, and had taken on the voluntary role of stage manager for the Kingston Operatic Society.
It was around the same time she joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation (which would later become British Airways) as catering manager, before moving to renowned building firm Holland, Hannen & Cubitts.
In 1963, Miss Mitchell joined Sanofi Winthrop pharmaceutical manufacturers, then based in Surbiton, where she opened the staff catering facilities.
In 1996 Miss Mitchell was awarded the Freeman of the City of London – and she would often be seen wearing the commemorative brooch.
She retired in 1998, and joined Maple Infants in Maple Road, Surbiton, as a governor and volunteer.
She was chair of the board of governors at the time of her death – the third time she had held the position.
Headteacher Liz Robinson said: “Sheila has given enormous support to Maple Infants’ over the past 15 years and has served tirelessly on the governing body throughout.
“She was a true friend of Maple in every sense of the word. I am intending to commemorate her life in some way in the not too distant future and am considering a special playground bench or seat in her memory.
“Sheila was a wonderful lady and will be missed by all those who knew her.”
In 2004, she received an MBE for her contribution and promotion of the catering industry.
Miss Mitchell was also member of the Association of Catering Excellence (ACE) for more than 50 years.
She was rembered this week by ACE chair Jeni Edwards, during the organisation’s annual ready steady cook event on Thursday.
She said: “We pay tribute to Sheila and salute her achievements.
“She would be so pleased to know that we have all had this opportunity to remember her and bid her farewell."
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