Vyna Florence Werner
April 6, 1936 – April 8, 2023
Vyna was born on April 6, 1936 in the UK to Carmela Dolores (née Restall) from Malta and John Stanley Throssell from England. She is survived by her brother, John, and grandson, Dominic. She was pre-deceased by her daughter, Amanda, husband, Manfred and brother, Norman.
As a child, her family doctor recommended singing to help childhood asthma, starting her on the path to her career. Vyna began work as a typist at a law company in London, then switched to earning her living singing in clubs. She sang in the style of Ella Fitzgerald, performing and interacting with large audiences in blues clubs.
With professional training she became a soprano, able to perform a full three octave range. She earned her licentiate in teaching and performing voice and piano from the Royal Academy of Music in 1967, and a Masters from the Royal Northern College of Music in 1969. In 1973 she sang the title role in Carmen for the Glyndebourne Opera to enthusiastic reviews, with one critic calling her a tour de force.
In 1958 she gave birth to Amanda, who was adopted by Vyna’s husband Ralph Martin, after their marriage in 1962. Amanda grew up to be a talented actress. She married, and in 1993 gave birth to Dominic. Unfortunately, Amanda died of liver failure in 2001.
Vyna’s husband Ralph turned out to have another wife, leading to divorce in 1973. Vyna was persuaded by friends Patti and Jose to leave Manchester and start over in El Cerrito, California. There she taught voice at the University of California, Berkeley and sang with the San Francisco Opera chorus, while also teaching privately. In 1990 she married Nicholas Lewis in Reno, Nevada. His gambling strained their finances, leading to a divorce after Vyna received her green card.
In 1992 she bought a house in Richmond, and rented out a room. Her renter, Manfred Werner, a master tiler from Germany, quietly admired her for a year before courting her, then became the love of her life. They married in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2001.
Discouraged by crime in Richmond, they tried Gambier Island, Canada to remodel an old hunting lodge into a bed and breakfast, before retiring to Point Roberts in Washington state. Point Roberts is surrounded on three sides by ocean, and on the north side by Canada. There she participated in the community, including adopting a fire hydrant, and joining the Red Hat Society for Women.
In addition to being passionate about teaching voice, Vyna was a dedicated and highly accomplished gardener. In Point Roberts she created a magnificent garden with a huge variety of flowers, vegetables and ornamental plants, doing most of the digging and heavy labor herself. Unfortunately, Manfred suffered a stroke, after which he moved to a nursing home in Bellingham for several years. Vyna relocated to Bellingham, where she visited Manfred every day she could until his death in November 2022. Her asthma prevented full recovery from a case of COVID, leading to her death in April 2023, two days after her 87th birthday.
Vyna’s lively stories are a fond memory for her friends and family, and she is very much missed.