A PROUD pensioner has come out of retirement to lend a hand to this year’s Poppy Appeal – at the grand old age of 88.
Doreen Mee sold poppies in Hartlepool for more than 20 years along with her friend Freda Allison, but retired after Freda’s death in 2009.
But since the campaign launched 10 days ago, Doreen has been working alongside current co-ordinator Sian Cameron on a poppy stall in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre to help the campaign better last year’s record-breaking total of almost £46,000,
Doreen has been a member of the Royal British Legion, which runs the campaign nationally, since 1978 when she joined after the death of her husband, Frank, the previous year.
Frank was a Normandy veteran and served in the Army with the Irish Regiment throughout the Second World War.
He died in 1977, aged just 58, from multiple sclerosis and Doreen joined the legion as a poignant tribute to him.
Mum-of-two, grandmother-of-seven and great-grandmother-of-ten, Doreen, began selling poppies in 1981 after moving to Hartlepool from her native Leicestershire.
But her appreciation of the armed forces and the work they do in protecting the UK stretches back to the outbreak of the Second World War when she was a girl of 16 and newly-qualified as a telephonist working at her local GPO exchange.
The presence of an army barracks nearby meant that a lot of the calls she routed through the exchange were from soldiers, and so Doreen had to sign the Official Secrets Act and promise not to reveal the nature of any of the conversations.
Coming from a military family with her dad having fought in the First World War and with an older sister in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), Doreen already had a vested interest in protecting British forces and had herself wanted to enlist. But she was prevented from doing so because her job was a in a reserved occupation, which the Government felt was critical to the overall war effort.
Instead, she joined the legion and set about helping out with poppy campaigns in her home village, continued her work after her move to Hartlepool under the late Laurie McQuillan, who was organiser for the town at the time.
Doreen, from Seaton Carew, said: “I had a car so I used to deliver the poppies to the pubs and clubs and help with the selling of poppies too.
“That’s when I met Freda, and she and I took on the campaign together after Laurie’s death and ran it until the late Ian Cameron, who was Sian’s dad, took it on in 2003.
“After that, Freda and I stayed on to help out. We used to take around £12,000 but when Ian took over that figure shot up and Sian has done even better.
“I think she’s wonderful, the way she took over from her dad when he died and weathered the storm, and the way she’s pushed the takings up year after year is just wonderful.”
Doreen says she has enjoyed coming out of retirement to help out with the campaign, and added: “I came out again because I just like to help out when I can. I enjoy doing it and it’s nice to see the generosity of people.”
And Doreen’s efforts have won praise from Sian, who said: “It’s been lovely to have the opportunity to work alongside Doreen selling poppies and it’s been interesting to listen to her stories about her work during the war and the experiences she has has with the Royal British Legion poppy appeals. Her commitment and tenacity have really inspired me.”