Organist, village stalwart and Asda driver receive BEM
- Credit: Asda / Supplied
A committed church organist of more than 70 years was among those officially presented with the British Empire Medal (BEM) after being named in the Queen's New Year Honours list.
Janet Bays has played at the church in Tydd St Mary since 1948 and has never missed a service except for health reasons.
She also performs at weddings, funerals and carol services, including the popular carol evenings at Christmas where she takes requests from the congregation.
And the former music teacher at St Audrey’s Convent in Wisbech continues to play despite her hearing loss.
Her daughter Rachel said: “Mum was very surprised to have been nominated for the award as she is a very humble lady – but was absolutely thrilled.
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“My father David died of Covid in January and even though he knew about the award, he didn’t tell mum about it.
“So it’s extra special that he knew before he passed away – and it brought us all some joy after a terrible time.”
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At the ceremony where Mrs Bays received her award, Richard Pemberton, a Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, outlined some of her responsibilities.
He said: “Janet is an important member of the church community in Tydd, whose contributions are palpable and whose long and dedicated service is greatly appreciated by those around her.”
Valerie Ware, of Tydd St Giles, was also awarded the BEM for her services to the community for over 30 years.
She was described as “a key player in village life” with her roles as a former teacher and school governor at Kinderley Community Primary School, organiser of the village fortnightly luncheon club and her Women’s Institute commitments.
Her citation at the ceremony said: “Notwithstanding these substantial inputs, Valerie still finds time and energy to be an active member of the local bowls club, organises village dances and be a member of the parish council...
“[She] has made a substantial and wide-ranging contribution to village live over a considerable period.
“It would be no exaggeration to say that she is the heart on which village life turns."
Wisbech Asda delivery driver Geoffrey Norris also picked up his BEM last week for his services during the Covid-19 response.
He helped coordinate a team of volunteers at the store who supported the elderly and vulnerable during the lockdown.
As his citation was read, guests were told: “Geoff’s acts of kindness have been described as a lifeline by one elderly shopper while another said they have been lifesavers.”
He also made 90th birthday arrangements for one regular customer when he found out she would be celebrating her big day on her own.
The three awardees from the Fens were among 15 from the county who were presented the BEM by Julie Spence, the Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire at The Great St Mary’s, The University Church, in Cambridge.
Mrs Bays and Mrs Ware received their BEM awards on June 28. Mr Norris received his at a ceremony the following day.