Lobelia Bubenzer (1924-2017)
The only enlisted Bermudian woman to march in the Second World War victory parade in London has died aged 93.
Lobelia “Bella” Bubenzer was just 19 when she travelled to England in 1943 and crossed the U-boat-infested Atlantic in a convoy to enlist in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
She went on to to marry a German prisoner of war she met while serving in Oxfordshire before returning home to Bermuda in 1959 with her two sons, Peter and Axel.
Son Peter Bubenzer said: “She talked a lot about the victory parade to us as children.
“She talked about the pride and the camaraderie of all the young women together.
“She made many friends during the war years that she kept for life.”
Mrs Bubenzer was born in July 1924 to James Howard and Doris May Curtis at their home on Middle Road, Paget.
One of six children, she attended Paget Glebe School and then Berkeley Institute before pursuing secretarial qualifications.
Mrs Bubenzer signed up as a member of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps and left the island for the first time on December 20, 1943.
She paid her own way from Darrell’s Island by flying boat to Baltimore, where she took a train to Halifax before boarding the Pacific Exporter.
The old banana boat travelled in a 93 vessel convoy that left on January 23, 1944 and arrived safely in Avonmouth in early February.
Mr Bubenzer said: “When she arrived in London she found herself in the middle of an air raid, although to her great surprise everyone was walking around on the street as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
“She was then assigned to a unit at Bicester in Oxfordshire and served there as a secretary until she was demobbed in 1947.
“The women slept in huts that could hold 12 and my mother never forgot the spartan accommodation.
“While she was in Bicester she was joined by her great friend, Eva Robinson, in the spring of 1944.
“During periods of leave they decided that they should travel as far away inside the British Isles as they could. They went to Dublin twice, Aberdeen in Scotland and St Ives in Cornwall.”
Mrs Bubenzer met August-Wilhelm Bubenzer, a German prisoner of war while stationed in Oxfordshire.
The pair struck a friendship and in 1948 they married and moved to Manchester.
The couple later settled to London where they had two sons and Mrs Bubenzer got a job working for future newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, who had just started a publishing business. But her marriage broke down and Mrs Bubenzer returned to Bermuda with her two sons in 1959.
Mr Bubenzer said: “When we first came home we stayed with my mother’s aunt and uncle on Angle Street in Hamilton.
“I was five and my brother was three and she worked tirelessly to provide for us.
“Her first concerns were not just providing adequate food and clothing for her sons, but also giving us a good education.”
Mrs Bubenzer became the first black woman to serve as secretary to the island’s Magistrates, where she recorded court proceedings.
She got a job at American International in 1967 and worked there until she retired in 1989.
Mrs Bubenzer continued to travel with Mrs Robinson during her later years and enjoyed an active social life.
She decided to move to nursing home Westmeath in 2011, where she remained until her death on Monday, September 25.
Mr Bubenzer said: “She was very loving; very protective and wanted to make the best possible life for her children. Above all, my mother loved people, and had friends of all ages and backgrounds over the many years of her life in England and Bermuda, including old Bermuda friends, such as Eva Robinson.
“We are extremely proud of what she did and the difference she made and also how she struggled when she came back to Bermuda. What she was able to achieve was a minor miracle.
“She accomplished a huge amount — we were always close and so saying goodbye has been very hard.”