On Thursday 8th September, the day Queen Elizabeth II of England died, Gladys “Bobbie” Selverstone received a personalized and signed birthday card from Her Majesty wishing her a very happy 100th birthday.
After reading the card, her daughter, Jane Selverstone, had to break Bobbie the sad news that the monarch who ruled much of Scots’ life was dead.
“I was very fond of this lady and was beyond horrified to hear that she had passed,” Bobbie said during an interview with her, Jane and their son Andrew at their Lewis Point home in Damariscotta on Tuesday, September 13 .
The centenary card is standard practice for the UK monarchy, Jane said. Jane said Bobbie was “over the moon” when she received the card, which had a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on the front. The card is personally signed by the Queen and reads: “On such a special occasion, I send you my congratulations and best wishes.”
Bobbie celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday, September 11, when about 20 people from and around New Zealand, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico came out to wish her well. She also received greetings from across the pond, Jane said.
Bobbie was born in 1922 in Ayr, Scotland. Her family moved to the London area when she was 6 years old. Her father was English and her mother Irish, Jane said.
After joining the Royal Air Force in 1940, she was nicknamed “Bobbie” because there were too many women named Gladys in her unit, Jane said. Bobbie ended up in the hospital with pleurisy, a condition that causes inflammation of the tissue lining the lungs and chest wall, according to the Mayo Clinic.
After her discharge from the military, Bobbie worked for a prominent dentist, Freddie Warner, on Harley Street in London until she married in 1951.
Jane explained how Bobbie survived the German bombing campaign against the UK in 1940 and 1941 known as “The Blitz”.
“She talks about those years all the time, how she dressed smartly for work, how she went underground during air raids, etc,” Jane said.
Bobbie and her boss joined the huge crowd on Victory Day in Europe on May 8, 1945, and landed right outside the barricades of Buckingham Palace, Jane said.
Bobbie met her future husband Norman Selverstone at a party at the US Embassy in London and the couple married in 1951.
“Our mom’s roommate, they had a party shortly after and said, ‘I feel so sorry for this lonely, miserable American, we should invite him,'” Jane said.
Norman originally traveled to London after winning a scholarship to study with renowned cardiologist John McMichael at Hammersmith Hospital.
In Landstuhl, Germany, Norman served for two years as Chief Physician of Cardiology at the US Army’s 320th General Hospital.
The couple then moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1953 before settling in Cambridge, Mass. for the remainder of Norman’s career.
“They landed in Norfolk, Virginia, in mid-July. Apparently it was quite a culture shock coming out of the UK,” said Andrew Selverstone.
Norman eventually opened a private practice in internal medicine with his brother Louis. He also worked for nearly 50 years at Mount Auburn Hospital and as an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Harvard Medical School.
At Cambridge, Bobbie served as a traditional housewife until her children were out of school, Jane said. She then worked and ran a quality craft shop, Friends Gallery, for a number of years.
“It was a really high-end, high-end crafting center,” said Jane.
“I loved making things, especially things with my hands,” Bobbie said.
Jane surmises that this passion may have been instilled due to mandatory rationing in the UK during and after the Second World War. Rationing did not end until 1954, nine years after the end of the war.
“She’s learned to do whatever and just use what’s available,” said Jane.
Jane mentioned Bobbie’s stories about the joy of traveling from Germany to Paris during rationing, where everything such as food and clothing was available to them.
“The French knew how to do it,” Bobbie said.
The family had summered in a cottage in Chamberlain since 1959, when they traveled from Cambridge almost every weekend and then spent most of August in Maine.
The couple’s third child, Roger Selverstone, lived in Maine for a time and cared for Bobbie, but he died suddenly last year, Jane said.
Bobbie and Norman Selverstone moved to Maine permanently in 2009. Norman died in 2013.
“It’s been a good life for me,” Bobbie Selverstone said of her time in Maine. “Very nice people.”