Dorothy Loeffler.

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There are very few British expatriates in Mallorca who at one time in their lives on the island have not met Dorothy Loeffler, who I can only describe as a true legend and quite handy around the garden, as Bulletin readers will know thanks to her gardening column, which is currently resting due to IT issues.

Last week, Dorothy’s second tenure as President of ESRA, the English Speaking Residents Association, which has around 1,000 members and will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, came to an end. She is now planning on enjoying a well-earned retirement in Puerto Pollensa, which has been her home since the early '60s.

But apart from having spent ten years as President of ESRA and many more on the committee, Dorothy is a formidable mother and grandmother of many talents. Originally from the Kent/Sussex border near Tunbridge Wells, she first came to Mallorca in the late 1950s on holiday to visit her brother, who had been hired to build a boat for the late Stanley Woodward. It was during that visit that she happened to meet and eventually marry Alfonso, who was the manager of the Hotel Formentor. Among the duties he performed for the many famous guests was to show Grace Kelly to her honeymoon suite.

However, I would imagine that Alfonso would have had his work cut out in wooing Dorothy, because she had a flourishing dress-making business in London. As a highly accomplished seamstress, Dorothy started off designing and producing wardrobes for women going on holiday.

“Back then, going on holiday was a very serious affair and one had to have the right garments."

And not long after opening her business in London, she was commissioned to design the wedding dress for the only member of the general public to have got married at Westminster Abbey. “Only royalty can marry in the abbey, but an exception was made for the daughter of the Deacon at the time. In the wake of that, I was catering for all the high society, so business was booming”

However, Alfonso was on the horizon and after a few more trips to Mallorca, the holiday romance flourished and Alfonso popped the question.

“To be honest, I guess we had only properly been together for six weeks, with me coming and going over the space of some three years. But when he asked me to marry him, I didn’t give it a second thought, despite being somewhat reluctant to give up my business in London. I’ve never looked back, not once.”

That said, the late Alfonso, who was half German and half English, had been previously married. Under Spanish law at the time, they could not get married in Spain, so they tied the knot in Battle in England. Four children and 20 years later, they eventually married in Spain. “I got to wear my wedding dress twice.”

So, in the early '60s, Dorothy set up a dress-making shop in Puerto Pollensa and it was not long before she had three outlets in the area, while Alfonso carried on with his career as a leading hotel manager. She also soon started helping the local children with their English. “I think I had as many as 40 young students.”

During that time, they managed to get enough money together to purchase a plot of land in the port and eventually built what was to become the family house. Today, its doors are always open with a steady flow of children and grandchildren passing through “most of them wanting some sewing done". “But seriously, I am extremely proud of all my four children. They’ve been excellently educated in Mallorca and have all gone on to become very professional and successful in their various fields of work.”

In 1979, she happened to bump into the Bulletin's commercial director in the north of the island. At the time, the editor was Andrew Valente and it was suggested to Dorothy that she could start writing some news items about what was happening in the north of the island.

“So, before I knew it, I was not only writing for the paper, I was selling adverts as well. I did that for many years; some of my first advertisers are still in business today. Mind you, it was on a commission basis only, I didn’t get paid. But local businesses loved the prestige that came with being in the Bulletin.”

Then, as if she did not have enough to do, she took a job as an airport representative for the villa rental company Beach Villas, which was based in Cambridge. “I started off just doing the airport run and showing guests to their properties and then became area manager.”

But Dorothy was never one for being an employee, she has always been the boss, so in the early '80s she branched out and set up her own villa rental company, with the vitally important help of her daughter Yolanda, who had a degree in tourism management - without one you could not run a business of that kind back then. At their peak, they had 150 luxury properties on their books.

“They all had swimming pools and were all licensed and the vast majority of our clients were British. The port and the town have always been extremely popular with the British and still are. I don’t know what it is about the port, but while it has obviously changed visually, it’s never lost its soul.

“The people have always been so friendly, welcoming and helpful and it has always been a very safe little port. I think that visitors, second home owners and expatriates appreciate that. It’s a lovely place to live or visit and people have been coming back on holiday for decades, generations even. There is something very special about the area. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to live and to have brought up the kids,” she said.

Anyway, most people would probably have thought they had enough on their plates by then, but not Dorothy. In 1983, ESRA was formed in Palma and it was not long before it was suggested that branches should be set up around the island, and they were.

Dorothy was soon to be on the committee of ESRA North and then in 2003 became president for the first time. That tenure lasted five years, and she later returned as president for another five years; that stint came to an end last week.

“I think it is now time to retire,” says Dorothy, who is still an active member of the local UMP political party which her late husband founded. “I think I shall try and relax a bit more and spend more time with the grand kids and enjoying the things I love like my sewing and gardening. Mind you, now that Covid restrictions have been lifted, the local choir will be reforming and I also take care of producing the costumes for the amateur dramatics group Nomads, so there’s always something to do.

“But I hope to see ESRA continue to grow and support the many charities and causes we have helped over the years. By law, we’re only allowed to keep sufficient funds to operate, to cover our expenses. The rest has to go to charity and we’ve helped numerous local organisations and causes such as the San Lorenzo floods. We have supported a few charitable causes in the UK but we like to keep it local and I hope that continues.

“While some people may think we’re aimed at the British community, we’re an English-speaking association and it’s all about helping people integrate in Mallorca. We’ve got members of all nationalities and host all sorts of events as often as possible, be it at branch level or island-wide, and I think that’s very important. And we’re always there should someone need help and advice.

“And, if I finally get my new computer going, I might even resume my gardening column for the Bulletin. My cherry tomato tree, which I had given up for dead last year, has suddenly sprung back to life and we picked the first tomatoes for lunch the other day. There’s always something going on in the port.”