Elizabeth Gwendoline “Gwen” Woodhouse died in Dubuque, IA on October 1, 2020 at 90 years of age. Gwen was born to William and Margaret Hunter on December 28, 1929 in the village of Dubmire Newbottle, in the gritty coal mining country of northeast England. Her early years were cruel. Her father went off to fight in World War II. During the Battle of Britain, Nazi bombers would send her and her classmates marching off in a line to air raid shelters. Following her mother’s sudden death, her father remarried. Her stepmother was unloving and abusive, forcing her eventually to seek refuge with her Grandmother Gillen. Gwen remembered the Home Guard standing watch all night over a smoldering German plane that had crashed near their home.
At seventeen years of age, Gwen escaped to post-war London. She worked at Marks and Spencer in London and discovered her striking beauty and delightful soprano singing voice. It was there that she met Robert Woodhouse, a US Air Force medic from Letts, IA. They shared a common experience of childhood hardship. In later years they recalled with wonder attending the opening ceremonies of the 1948 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium. On December 3, 1950 Gwen and Robert were married in the High Road Methodist Church at Willesden Green, England.
When Bob’s stint was up, they sailed for the States and settled in Muscatine, Iowa, where they started from scratch. Over the next 58 years of marriage they kept an austere but loving household, where they raised three sons and a daughter who have gone on to success in life. Bob’s career changes, from TV repairman to country Baptist minister to safety engineering technician, required brief relocations to Missouri and Texas, always returning to Eastern Iowa. But no matter where the family was, they were home, because Gwen made it home. There was never much, but always enough. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, cutthroat games of Hearts, used cars than didn’t look like much but ran, and singing, always singing, old-timey hymns, Celtic folk songs and Broadway show tunes, in perfect pitch. Her dedication to the well-being of her family was total, her faith in God abiding. Despite all the scars, these two flawed people were able to create an inseverable union and raise their children to have better lives. For that her children will be forever grateful.
Gwen remained a lifelong loyal subject of the Crown, closely following all the doings of the Royals and holding on to remnants of a British accent. Once the kids were in high school and college she went back to work, first at the Muscatine community senior center and later in the women’s clothing section at Younkers. They moved to Dubuque after Bob retired. As years went on, Gwen developed a love of travel. She returned to England several times to reconnect with relatives. She and Bob would apartment sit for Rob and Leslie in San Francisco. Come winter they would slip away for a month or so down on the Gulf Coast in Port Aransas, TX. More than anything else, she loved spending time with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Over the decade since Bob’s death in 2009, she lived at Oak Park Place where she was very content playing cards and making friends. She enjoyed Sunday visits at the home of her daughter, Bonnie, who became her primary care giver and support in her last years. In her last months, she stoically endured the social isolation of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Gwen was preceded in death by her husband Robert and her daughter-in-law, Kellie Woodhouse. She is survived by one daughter: Bonnie Sue Mihm (Randy) of Dubuque, Iowa and three sons: Robert Allen Woodhouse (Leslie) of San Francisco, CA, William Martin Woodhouse (Meg) of Pocatello, ID and John Andrew Woodhouse of Santa Cruz, CA; eight grandchildren: Alexander and Murphy Woodhouse, Adam Strakosch, Emily Roskens (Matt), Madeline Cottrell (Jesse), Bradley (Karie), Elizabeth and Benjamin Mihm, and four great-grandchildren: Summer, Layne, Nolan and Madison. She is also survived by her British family members including cousin, Irene Wilkerson, niece, Judith Splevins and nephew, Malcolm Hunter
Per Gwen’s wishes her body has been cremated and a private family remembrance will be held at a later date. The Leonard Funeral Home & Crematory, 2595 Rockdale Road is assisting the family. Online condolences may leave at www.leonardfuneralhome.com
The family would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to Dr. Runde and his nurse, Julie, for years of compassionate medical advocacy, and to the staff of Luther Manor for providing loving care in her final days. Her sons would like to express their eternal gratitude to their sister, Bonnie Mihm, for her countless acts of selfless love provided to their mother on their behalf over many years.
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