Popular former Budleigh restaurateur Mary Shackleton, who was renowned for maintaining her front garden just to give joy to passers-by, died last Wednesday aged 74.

For 12 years, from 1986 to 1998, Mary and her husband Brian ran the 30-seat Country Fayre at the bottom of Fore Street Hill.

After Brian’s retirement in 1986 the couple had returned from Australia and settled in Budleigh, and together bought the then derelict Bay Cottage.

Brian recalled: “Mary was a wonderful businesswoman. She saw the cottage and what she wanted to do.

“We talked to local people to find out what residents in the town wanted. They all said they wanted somewhere they could have lunch, a nice restaurant with nice food but where they could be back home by 3pm in time for bridge!”

Despite their lack of experience in the trade, the restaurant soon become known for the high quality of its fish dishes, with Mary front of house and Brian the chef.

Mary was born in Birmingham on November 21, 1938, growing up with her brother Henry and sister June.

The famly soon moved to Blackpool to escape the wartime bombing raids, later moving to Aberystwyth in 1948.

There Mary became fluent in Welsh, excelled at sport and worked four jobs at the same time – at a cinema, a hotel, her parents’ restaurant, and their car-hire firm.

Brian said: “This gave her the opportunity to drive where she wanted and she loved driving to Oxford. She loved clothes and stayed in the finest five-star hotels like the Randolph.”

It was at a birthday party in 1958 that she met Brian. The occasion was his grandfather’s 90th birthday and her parents had made friends with Brian’s uncle when they all lived in Blackpool.

The couple were married two years later, and then Brian’s job as a quantity surveyor led them to move to Tasmania and later Sydney, where together they took up yachting, surfing, and skiing.

After they retired to Budleigh, Mary set about becoming part of the fabric of the town, walking through the town and along the seafront every day.

Brian said: “She knew everyone, and she also knew the names of everybody’s dog!”

In 1998 Brian and Mary closed the Country Fayre restaurant, later converting it into a bed and breakfast, and from 2007 Mary immersed herself in gardening – going on to win a host of awards.

“She did it to give people pleasure and joy as they walked past,” said Brian. “She won so many awards it got to the point they stopped asking for the cup back every year.”

For the last two weeks of her life Mary was looked after by Exeter Hospiscare, to whom Brian will be always grateful.

A private service takes today (Friday) with a public celebration of Mary’s life set to take place at St Peter’s Church on Friday, March 22, from 2.30pm.

Brian added: “Mary never liked dark clothes, wear something bright and colourful. I want to thank friends and neighbours for their help during this difficult time, especially her closest and dearest friend Maureen DeViell.”

He added: “[Mary] was everything to me – she was my soulmate and my best friend. She guided me during our lives together.”