Leading lady of Rugby Theatre exits the stage

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A MUCH-LOVED founder member of Rugby Theatre has died age 91.

Brenda Mills passed away after a short illness at the Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury.

One of her sons, Paul, said: “Mother was a very happy, optimistic lady who spread her joy of life around. Even when her health was failing, she would make jokes about the things that others would have found trying. We, her immediate family, will miss her dreadfully, as will her large extended family and group of friends who enjoyed her company so much.”

She was born in Rugby and spent most of her life there, raising her family in Park Road, until she moved to Kent, where her husband Bob was transferred for work.

Although Brenda was an only child she was part of a large family of uncles, aunts and cousins in Rugby.

She started her professional life as a secretary at BTH (later AEI) and later worked as a drama teacher at Rugby Technical College.

But her real love in life, apart from her family, was theatre, which resulted in her surviving sons, John and Paul taking up careers in entertainment.

She was a founding member of Rugby Theatre with her husband, Bob, who was general manager and worked on the actual purchase of the building. They were there from 1948 onwards until the 1970s when they moved from the town.

Of the many roles she enjoyed at Rugby Theatre, she remembered most fondly playing Madame Arcati in ‘Blithe Spirit’, Parthy Ann in ‘Showboat’ and the title role in ‘Bonaventure’, which she had the pleasure of taking to Evreux shortly after the town twined with Rugby.

Her family was very important to her and one of her favourite quotes from a play she was in was from ‘Dear Octopus’: “To the family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never escape, nor in our innermost hearts ever quite wish to.”

After Bob passed away in 1995, Brenda rebuilt her life in her new apartment in River, near Dover. Brenda was very content in River, until she moved last year to a residential home in Herne Bay.

Brenda had lots of interests in life but was above all, a believer in family and was a wonderful mother to John, now living in New York and Paul, living in Kent, and their wives, Fiona and Rosita. She was a caring grandmother to Adam, Jack, Christian and Kiyia.

The funeral will take place at St Andrew’s church at 10.30am tomorrow (Friday).

Family flowers will be welcome and donations to the Pilgrims Hospice (in her name) 56, London Road, Canterbury CT2 8JA.