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Born in Farnborough, Kent, in 1924, Stella Flanders, as she was then, initially trained as a nurse.
Then, aged 24, she married Ernest Groschel, a Czech engineer 13 years older who had come to Britain to escape the war.
She matched her very first client, a shy widow in her early 40s who was looking for a new partner to help with the upbringing of her young children.
"I found her someone and she married shortly afterwards," she recalls.
They hit it off immediately, moved in together, married, and had a baby of their own, which made nine.
They live in a raucous household just a few miles away."Another lady came to see Stella after escaping her violent former husband. I get a Christmas card from them every year, and postcards from their travels," Stella recalls.
Fifty years ago, this woman set up Britain's first modern dating agency and created a giant industry.
20,000 lonely hearts later (including her own) her views on the changing mores of romance make fascinating reading.
"She had watched her husband being swept out to sea and drowned, and had been devastated by it," Stella recalls. "I put her together with a local widower who had five children of his own and feared no woman would want to take him on.When a young Stella Groschel heard of her friend's plans to join a marriage bureau in her search for a husband, she was shocked to the core. I thought it was rather on the dangerous side and something that only really desperate, peculiar people would consider." Since then, however, Stella has learned to see matters from the other side.It was the Forties and, quite simply, respectable girls just didn't do that sort of thing. Now aged 83, she can lay claim to the title of the country's oldest and most long-standing matchmaker, still dispatching affairs of the heart at the country offices of her own dating agency."I didn't really have the foggiest idea what I was doing," she says now."I just got on with it and decided I would deal with problems as they arose." Such was her determination that her first matchmaking attempts took place in the maternity wing of her hospital, where she had just given birth to her daughter.
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In the process, her work has become a fascinating barometer of social change: when Stella first started her agency in the early Sixties, newspapers refused to carry her adverts for fear of causing a scandal.