The Brits are having a jolly good time in Edmonds

Christine Sellers will never forget being a young bride in Edmonds. She was happily married, but homesick for her native England. She missed the people and British customs. She needed an English friend.

When she met her husband-to-be, she was a nurse in San Francisco. Walter Sellers attended the University of California’s Hastings Law School. They married in 1969 in the English town of Ashford, Kent, where Christine spent her girlhood. They settled in Walter’s hometown of Edmonds.

“Even though Walter knew so many people here, I tried to seek out an English person. I met her through the library — all Brits go to the library,” Sellers said. “Her name was Barbara. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Now a 74-year-old widow, Sellers still lives in Edmonds. She hasn’t lost her lovely Kentish accent. Today, she has many English friends.

Sellers belongs to Daughters of the British Empire, a nationwide philanthropic group of women who share British or British Commonwealth heritage — by birth, naturalization or proven ancestry. Wives or partners of those with British ancestry may also join.

Next weekend, the Daughters of the British Empire will host a bazaar at the Edmonds Senior Center. Along with a shepherd’s pie lunch, there will be tea and a bake sale of British treats such as Eccles cakes and mince pies. British collectibles will also be for sale at the event, scheduled for 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Guests hoping to take a jolly good selfie will have that chance. A life-size cardboard cutout of Queen Elizabeth II will add a royal touch.

Daughters of the British Empire was founded in 1908. The group’s goals are to foster friendships and support charities, including four nonprofit retirement homes that now house residents of all backgrounds.

The organization has four U.S. districts and many local chapters. Its Western District retirement facility is in Sierra Madre, California. Along with fund-raising to help the retirement homes, chapters contribute to charities in other ways.

“We recently held a baby shower for Princess Charlotte,” said Sellers, a member of the group’s Thistle and Rose chapter. Clearly, the 5-month-old daughter of Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has no need for the women’s hand-knitted items and other donated baby clothes.

The donations were given to Pregnancy Aid of Snohomish County, an Everett-based agency that helps expectant and new mothers and their babies.

Maxine Rogalski, also of Edmonds, is an American-born Daughters of the British Empire member.

“I’m an anglophile,” said Rogalski, 66. She belongs to the group’s Regents chapter, which meets in Bothell. “I think I was anglophile even in the womb. Elizabeth was pregnant with Prince Charles when my mother was expecting me.”

Rogalski joined the group after her cousins did some genealogy research which showed she was eligible. She has visited England just once. Her chapter also held a Princess Charlotte baby shower, and donated items to another nonprofit.

The retirement homes supported by Daughters of the British Empire have an interesting history. “In the early part of the 20th century, maids and servants had no pension. They had nothing. We don’t have that clientele anymore in our British homes,” Rogalski said.

Each chapter “adopts” a resident of the homes, establishing a friendship and sending gifts. “Our friend is 105,” Rogalski said.

Sellers said her chapter has about 25 members. As they grow older, the group looks to the next generation. Younger women are busy with families and careers, but Sellers said she hopes some evening meetings and other events will draw those “yearning to still remember the British ways.”

There’s one event even kids enjoy. It’s Guy Fawkes Night, Nov. 5, which is marked by fireworks in England. On Nov. 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes and other members of the Gunpowder Plot were foiled in an attempt to blow up Parliament and kill England’s King James I. The plot was meant to spark a Catholic uprising.

“On Guy Fawkes Night, people have huge bonfires with a guy on top — an effigy. It’s a Brit thing. If he had succeeded, it would have changed the monarchy,” said Sellers, whose safe-and-sane celebrations include sparklers for her grandkids.

“Americans love the monarchy,” said Sellers, a fan especially of the young royals. “They are fun. Where would Britain be without its monarchy?”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

British bazaar

The Daughters of the British Empire will hold a bazaar 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Edmonds Senior Center, 220 Railroad Ave., Edmonds. There will be a bake sale of British treats, tea, British collectibles for sale, games and a raffle. A lunch of shepherd’s pie will be available. Proceeds help the organization support a retirement home and other charities. Information: www.dbenational.org

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