Cynthia Cownie obituary

Other lives: Physiotherapist who devoted much of her life to caring about others

My mother, Cynthia Cownie, who has died aged 85, lived a life that was endlessly thoughtful and often dedicated to caring about others. She spent most of her working life as a physiotherapist and much of her personal time looking after family members and friends.

Cynthia was born in Fallowfield, Manchester, to Annie (nee Stapleton) and James Wade. James ran the Vegetarian Society’s first shop, in Rusholme, Manchester. Aged seven, Cynthia was evacuated with her brother, Peter, during the second world war before eventually returning to Manchester, where she and her family sought refuge in the pantry during air raids.

After Withington school and the end of the war, she trained in physiotherapy and, despite contracting tuberculosis, which put her in hospital for many months, became a physiotherapist at Wythenshawe hospital. Only six weeks after she met Allan Cownie, a University of Salford academic, they were engaged, and in 1961 they married. Cynthia left her job to raise their young family, who by the end of the 70s – inspired by Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation and by Cynthia’s upbringing – had collectively turned vegetarian. Later Cynthia became a vegan.

In the 1970s she became a physiotherapist at Parkfield school for disabled children in Swinton, Manchester. At home she cared for neighbours on a long-term basis, as well as for her father and then her mother, who had Alzheimer’s and whom she looked after for 20 years.

In 1989 Cynthia and Allan retired to Pwllheli in north-west Wales, where she learned Welsh. After 20 years there, Allan’s health deteriorated and Cynthia cared for him. They moved to their final home in Sheffield before Allan died in 2015.

Cynthia was a woman who thought deeply about the choices she made and made the world a better place for us all. Her resilience, compassion, selflessness and lack of interest in materialism were evident throughout her life.

She is survived by her children, Philippa, David and me, and by seven grandchildren, James, Edward, Lily, Tom, Ella, Max and Joe.

Fiona Cownie

The GuardianTramp

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