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Wendy Bishop

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Wendy Bishop was the first person to die from the coronavirus in the small town where she lived in the Scottish Highlands. She was 97 years old, and had lived an extraordinary life: serving as a medic during the Second World War, raising six children, and later opening a hospital for injured dolls and teddy bears where she repaired toys sent to her from around the world. Now, Bishop will finally be laid to rest alongside her wartime sweetheart, who was killed in battle at the age of 20, almost 80 years ago. Wendy Beatrice Austin Bishop, one of three siblings, was born in Northfleet in Kent, in the southeast of England in 1923. She left school at 15 and went to work at a local kennel. Soon after, World War II broke out, and she was evacuated to Hampshire, but at the age of 17, she enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force as a medic and served from 1941 to 1945. She was stationed at RAF Oban in Scotland and met her first boyfriend, Roy Stephens. He died at the age of just 20 on his first mission with the Royal Air Force, so they never got to live out their future together. Almost 80 years later, his relatives are still in touch with Bishop’s family, and her ashes will be buried alongside her first love in Golders Green crematorium, north London. “She totally loved him,” her granddaughter Johanna Bishop said. “And of course, when he was killed, my nan met my granddad and they had six children.” After the war, Bishop moved back to England, to Hampshire, where she married and had her children, and later relocated to Bournemouth, where she first opened a shop. Bishop was an adventurous woman, and after her marriage broke down in the 1970s, she just decided to start again, hundreds of miles further north. She lived out the rest of her life in Scotland. First, she moved to Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, and then on to Grantown-on-Spey, where she opened her “hospital” — Toys and Treasures — in the high street. Bishop also loved to write — she wrote letters and poetry, and she kept diaries. After she died, Johanna found her grandmother's memoirs, "pages and pages and pages" of her life story, that her family hadn't even known she was writing. They are now considering getting trying to get them published. “There was somebody from the army, somebody from the RAF, somebody from the fire station, and the police,” Johanna said. “They all gave her a salute as she went past in the coffin…and people came and lined the route which my nan went.” In her final hours in hospital, Johanna and her aunt were allowed onto the ward to see Bishop for one last time. They stayed for two hours, and as her beloved grandmother drank a cup of tea, Johanna told her not to worry about the family, and even told her a little white lie to put her mind at ease — that baby Freya had arrived safely already and that she and her parents were doing well. Bishop died just hours later. “She really enjoyed that cup of tea and I thought that I'm going to hold onto that memory,” Johanna said. “These are memories that we're going to cherish now because it was just nice to be able to say goodbye.” She was a well-known character in Grantown-on-Spey, and on the day of her funeral, local residents lined up to pay their respects.