Lyme mourns popular resident Sheila Wheeler, 89.

PUBLISHED: 16:54 21 February 2017

The layte Sheila Wheeler

The layte Sheila Wheeler


The daughter of ‘Puffing Billy’ driver Percy Bird dies in an Axminster nursing home

Puffing Billy at Axminster StationPuffing Billy at Axminster Station

One of the last surviving links with the long-closed Axminster to Lyme Regis branch railway has died in an Axminster nursing home.

Sheila Wheeler, 89, was the daughter of the late Percy Bird who drove “Puffing Billy” more than 70 years ago.

Born in Exeter, Mrs Wheeler moved to Lyme with her family in 1936, living with an aunt, the late Effie Love, while her father had their home, Belvedere, built in Colway Lane.

Only 14 when her mother May died, she took over the care of the household and worked as a waitress to supplement the family income.

In later years, she ran a successful bed and breakfast business from the Hill Road house her late husband, prominent building contractor Sam, bought and renovated in 1958.

Widowed in 1998, Mrs Wheeler was a popular member of the community, well known for her kind nature and wacky sense of humour.

In her younger years she liked to sketch and dance and was a high level award winner for her expertise in the ballroom.

She leaves a son and daughter, Robert and Sandra, two grandchildren Nicky and Becky, and three great grandchildren.

The funeral service takes place at Lyme Regis Parish Church on Thursday, March 2, at 12 Noon.

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