In the summer of 2014, Dwynwen Kovacs became a volunteer in the Eden Animal Rescue shop in Great Dockray, Penrith.
She had been refused as a volunteer in other charity shops as she was over 80 years of age.
Over the following weeks, staff there came to find out a great deal more about Dwyn, as she preferred to be called.
Not because she was a boastful person, on the contrary, she had a very quiet and pleasant personality, but purely from a natural nosiness on their part.
They were intrigued by a number of small mysteries in her life.
Born in Wales, why did she have both a British and a Canadian passport? What was she, a woman in her late September years, doing on her own in this quiet English northern outpost of Penrith?
Another point of interest, she had purchased outright, one of the only two houses in the controversial New Squares development, just a few hundred yards from the Eden Animal Rescue shop, and just behind Penrith’s historical 16th century public house, the Two Lions.
They were to discover later that Dwyn had at least seven passports — five British and two Canadian — and that she had backpacked, as a single woman, through countries you would not go near today, or even then perhaps, for fear of at least attack, or incarceration as an invented spy or political hostage.
Her travels embraced Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, India, South America, Singapore, Iraq, Jordan, Hungary, Egypt, Nepal, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as a few that no longer exist.
She even had the distinction of being forcibly deported from Egypt.
Somewhere along the way she married a Hungarian. It was a good marriage, and with her husband, Sandor Kovacs, she had a relatively quiet period, working for Bell telephone in Canada, certainly for long enough to be given a gold watch when she left the company.
During this period she raised two children, Kate and Bill, who became interesting people in their own right.
But Dwyn still had itchy feet, and with her husband’s agreement, she dug out the old backpack and made her way to Cumbria, where she developed a deep love for the Lake District, returning again and again.
When her husband died, her visits became more frequent, and eventually, permanent, purchasing the New Squares house and washing up at the door of the animal charity shop, where, over the next few years, she enriched the lives of colleagues, and became friends with many customers.
Staff have many amusing stories of Dwyn’s time in Penrith.
Once, when passing the Turkish barber’s in Middlegate, she thought it was time for a haircut.
“But we only cut men’s hair”, the chap explained.
This did not deter Dwyn, who explained that refusing to cut her hair could be seen as discrimination against the fairer sex.
We much admired her Turkish haircut when she came to work the next morning.
Once, colleagues took her to the giant Imax cinema at Rheged.
The feature started with a small, normal sized picture in the middle of the massive screen, then the music swelled to a crescendo, and the picture, in an instant, enlarged to fill the giant screen, the size of 20 double-decker buses.
Dwyn sat bolt upright and exclaimed in a loud voice: “Oh my!” Needless to say, everyone in the auditorium heard her.
When Dwyn became ill, her daughter, Kate, came over several times from Canada, some times accompanied by her husband, Mark.
Dwyn’s son Bill also made a visit.
Dwyn’s Canadian family were due to come over this September, depending on COVID-19 travel rules.
It is a cruel twist of fate that the recent restrictions meant they could not travel to be with Dwyn at the end, a fate suffered by so many families during this pandemic.
During her time in a care home, Dwyn, who was 88 when she died, also touched the lives of the residents and staff, who said she was lovely, never complained, and was always smiling — that was a facet of Dwyn’s personality that was always there — she never complained about anything, she just got on with it.