Tribute paid to popular Loreto who lived a life 'well-lived and with very few regrets'

Florence Loreto Josephine Benson, nee Freel, known as Loreto, passed away on September 8 aged 89, signing off on a life, in her words, "well-lived and with very few regrets".

Friday, 25th September 2020, 3:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 9:42 am
Loreto Benson nee Freel.

Loreto was born to the late James Michael Freel and Marie Theresa Freel (Mullholland) on April 8 1931 in Barrow in Furness, the 10th of 13 children and named Florence in honour of her mother’s best friend, although she and most of her siblings were called by their second name.

Being born pre-war years shaped Loreto’s seminal years and resulted in a lifetime of thriftiness, and Loreto told many tales of her younger life and always happy times.

At the age of nine Loreto was evacuated to the countryside near Lancaster with another girl, due to Barrow being seen as a danger zone during World War Two because of the Vickers shipyard.

In Nazareth House with a plaque in tribute to Loreto Benson nee Freel.

However, Loreto decided to escape, and tried to follow the railway lines to find her mum in Barrow! She was caught but eventually her mother took her back home where she remained for the rest of the war.

One of Loreto's older brothers, the late James Michael Freel Jnr, was a World War Two hero. James was a 'Human Torpedo', winning many medals presented by King George XI at Buckingham Palace for his bravery sinking ships in Palermo Harbour, and then working with the underground in Italy.

After the war James jumped ship in Melbourne, working later in Sydney until he passed away in 1965.

Loreto was a strong, independent, courageous woman who never seemed to acknowledge obstacles other than to steamroller through them.

Loreto Benson nee Freel.

Telling her children she was going to Blackpool, she instead headed to Australia to bring her brother James back home to be buried with his mother, with all the planning and red tape involved, plus brother Frank's signature of approval!

The three judges who had to approve her application asked “how do you know it’s your brother?’

Loreto replied “you don’t think I’m going all that way to dig up someone else do you?’

James was honoured with a submariner’s funeral in Barrow.

Loreto was working at Melling Hall when she met the love of her life, Frank Benson, in Wennington where Frank was working.

They had six children, Michele, Ryan, Karen, Francis and twins Damien and Patrick; unfortunately Patrick died at birth.

They started life together on Ullswater Road in Lancaster until a house became available on Thirlmere Road on the Ridge Estate, before moving to Primrose Street.

Loreto loved jumble sales and second hand shops; she had a good eye for a bargain was a frequent shopper.

She was an exceedingly proper woman and a pillar of her faith, but if she disagreed the nuns and priests would get an earfull - life was never dull in the Loreto Benson household!

Loreto would help people from all walks of life, Lancaster’s very own Mother Teresa!

Loreto and Frank later divorced and Loreto moved with the children to Ashfield Avenue, where she enjoyed growing sunflowers in her garden.

Daughter Michele moved to New Zealand when she was 18, was but pleased to be able to see her mum one last time last year.

"Christmas was always a full table at Ashfield, lots of people with nowhere to go would be at ours!" Michele said.

"Loreto saved all year to make Christmas special, and it was! Awaiting Father Christmas! A lovely tree and cherry brandy that we used to sip when Loreto was not looking! The dates on the table didn’t get touched by us!"

Loreto's funeral service was held today, September 25, at Lancaster Cathedral, followed by interment at Scotforth Cemetery.

Donations can be sent to Nazareth House in Lancaster, where Loreto spent her last couple of happy years, as was her wish

Michele said: "When the doctors said Loreto was in palliative care a few weeks ago "your mother is very poorly" we thought 'no, not Loreto, she might pull through this chest infection with her determination!

"Loreto had told the hospital she was not having a Covid or blood test! Then asked a friend where the party is! Are you taking me? I smiled. Loreto loved a party! Of course Loreto had to have the Covid test before she could return to Nazareth House, and that would have been worth filming.

"The family is forever in debt to Nazareth House, Sorry dad, Frank, we did the best we could to take care of her and keep her out of your hair as long as we could. She is with all now in heaven now."

To share a memory of Loreto, please email Michele at [email protected]