SHE travelled the world, rubbed shoulders with royalty and helped to fight fires during the blitz in London.

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Described as a bit of a rebel, warm tributes were paid today to 103-year-old Grace Cole, the former owner of one of Felixstowe’s best known women’s fashion shops, following her death on December 6.

Friends and family gathered together on Thursday to pay their respects to Grace, formerly of Colneis Road, who owned Russell Smith in Hamilton Road between 1956 to the mid 1970s.

A designer by trade, she won the coveted fashion designer of the year title three times and made clothing for royalty.

Her daughter, Rosemary Rackham, said: “She was very adventurous.

“Most mums back then would have been at home but she was out working, which was very unusual in those days.

“She always was a bit of a rebel, before her time in many ways.”

Grace was born in north London in December 1909 and moved to Singapore when she was 21 where she earned enough money to open her own clothing shop in Orchard Road, the country’s major shopping area.

She travelled to other Asian countries and got to know the Sultan of Johor, making European-style dresses for his wives.

During the war she ran three factories in London which were making uniforms and other items for soldiers – but there was plenty to do outside of work hours as well.

Mrs Rackham added: “She was struggling all day to keep up with orders and would spend the night on the roof during bombing raids with sand bags to put out any fires started by incendiary bombs.”

Grace and her husband Lionel, who died about 13 years ago, took over at Russell Smith and they later had a successful mail order clothes company from premises in Highfield Road, Felixstowe.

Grace continued living in Felixstowe until a few years ago when she moved into Alice Grange care home, in Kesgrave.

Mrs Rackham added: “It has become clear in the last few weeks that they (staff at the home) all loved her quirky ways and their chats with her.

“We shall miss her but count ourselves privileged to have known her.”

Grace had one daughter, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

■ What are your memories of Grace? E-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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