By David Fleet
Brandon Twp.— Sheila Newton, now an 80-year-old Brandon Township resident and former British citizen of 65 years recalls a royal encounter in London.
“We were in a part of London about 1982, watching the restoration of Roman buildings,” said Newton. “Our family was standing at a fence and our daughter Kim, who was about 10 years-old wondered away from us. She ended up on the inside of the fenced in the renovation work area.”
Kim said she had just received a new camera for her birthday.
“I went inside the fenced in area around the restoration area,” recalled Kim, now a resident of Romeo, Mich. “All of sudden Queen Elizabeth arrived to view the Roman buildings, it was a total surprise. The queen was walking with her lady-in-waiting right in front of me, when she noticed I had a camera.”
Despite some objection from her assistant, the queen asked her if she wanted a picture.
“I wanted so badly to get a picture of the queen with my new camera,” said Kim. “The queen was just so gracious and I thanked her for the opportunity.”
The picture is long gone today, but the memory of Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch, who died Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle at 96 years-old, after reigning for 70 years remains for many British citizens.
“She was the only queen I knew,” said Newton, who left England in 1964 for the United States and became a U.S. Citizen about 14 years ago. “She was the only queen that had been in the military, and was a great citizen of the United Kingdom.”
Then Princess Elizabeth was just 13-years-old when war broke out on Sept. 3, 1939.
Newton was born in Paignton, England in 1942, during the height of World War II. Her parents, Rose and Leslie Heap, shipped her to northern England to the town of Morecambe in Lancashire. Not far from Blackpool.
“I moved back to the seaside town of Paignton, in the county of Devonshire after the war,” she said. “It was very harsh conditions in England, the bombing by the Germans took a lot out of our country.”
As the war went on, Princess Elizabeth became involved with wartime and military life, recalled Newton.
Newton’s father, Leslie Heap, served in the British Army during the war. She does not recall his role in the service.
“Dad lost his hearing due to bombs going off near him,” she said. “And he suffered from the psychological impacts of the war. It met so much to many that Queen Elizabeth was involved in the wartime efforts.”
Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was in 1953, when Newton was just 11-years-old.
The Heaps gave birth to a second daughter, Sylvia toward the end of World War II.
“We traveled around a lot when I was young, we lived outside of London for a while too,” she said. ‘We lived in a small caravan or trailer. We lived in a trailer park that was near a small farm and I would milk cows to bring in money for food. I did not think about being poor.”
Newton recalls Queen Elizabeth’s message to the people.
“‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service,’” recalled Newton. “She had no real power, but stood behind her county and was loved by all. The millions that arrived to mourn the loss of the queen is a reflection of our country.”
By David Fleet