Organist, village stalwart and Asda driver receive BEM

Geoff Norris BEM, Janet Bays BEM and Valerie Ware BEM

Asda delivery driver Geoff Norris (Left), Janet Bays (Centre) and Valerie Ware (Right) all from the Wisbech area received their BEM awards at ceremonies in Cambridge. Pictures; Asda / Supplied - 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.

Janet Bays BEM pictured with Julie Spence and Richard Pemberton

Janet Bays (centre) pictured with Julie Spence, the Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire (Left), and Richard Pemberton (Right), a Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Supplied by the Bays family

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.

“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

Among her many commitments in Tydd St Giles, Valerie Ware organises at fortnightly luncheon club in the village. - Credit: Supplied by Valerie Ware

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."

Julie Spence, Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire with Valerie Ware

Julie Spence, the Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire presents Valerie Ware the BEM at a ceremony in Cambridge. - Credit: Archant

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.

Geoff Norris (left) is a driver for Asda in Wisbech but has been helping vulnerable and elderly cus

Geoff Norris (left) is a driver for Asda in Wisbech but helped vulnerable and elderly customers by doing their shopping for them on his days off and delivering it to them in is own car. Two colleagues are doing the same.. Picture; ASDA . - Credit: Archant

Geoff Norris: "absolutely gobsmacked to be honest. I did not have a clue at all " after being awarde

Geoff Norris was awarded the BEM in the Queen's New Year Honours list this year. Picture; ASDA - Credit: Archant

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.

Geoff Norris with the BEM and Julie Spence, Lord-Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire

Geoff Norris, an Asda delivery driver in Wisbech, was presented the BEM by Julie Spence, the Lord-Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire. - Credit: YouTube

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.

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