A PENSIONER who has dedicated more than 35 years of his life to charitable and community schemes in the village where he lives has been included in the New Years Honours list.
John Darwin Johnson – or Jack as he is known – appears on the list to receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) alongside the likes of TV personality Nicholas Parsons, businesswoman and star of The Apprentice Karren Brady, and Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins who are also receiving awards for their work.
The 82-year-old, from Castle Eden, has been a warden, and later a verger, for the village’s St James Church for the past 35 years, organising events to raise money for the parish and securing, opening and closing the church for services, weddings, funerals and baptisms.
The father-of-one and granddad-of-three sells poppies around the village’s houses for the Poppy Appeal and usually raises £400 each year.
He also makes visits to two elderly women at least twice every day to keep them company and to check if they need any help.
The former area manager for the former Nimmos brewery also finds the time to organise village community bonfire parties each year in October and more recently tonight on New Year’s Eve.
He told the Mail that he was “delighted” to be told that he was to receive the honour, but said he simply carried out the activities because they make him feel good and keep him fit and active.
Jack, who has lived in Castle Eden for 55 years and is married to Ann, said: “I think it’s wonderful, I don’t know who nominated me.
“It has made me feel really good, it’s marvellous really. I don’t do the things I do for any kind of gain, just because I enjoy doing it and it makes me feel good.”
Another recipient of a prestigious honour is former Hartlepool Mail editor Peter Barron, who is to receive a MBE for services to journalism and the community in the North-East.
The 51-year-old dad-of-four, now editor of the Northern Echo, was appointed the first official ambassador for the Butterwick Children’s Hospice at Stockton in recognition of his fundraising efforts of more than £20,000 raked in through speaking fees and his Dad At Large books.
After starting at the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, he joined the Echo as a reporter in 1984. He left in 1997 to edit the Hartlepool Mail before returning as Northern Echo editor in 1999.
Mr Barron, who was born in Saltburn and raised in South Bank, Middlesbrough, said: “I am shocked, more than a little embarrassed, but very proud.
“Newspapers have had a tough year due to the actions of a tiny minority of national journalists.
“I hope this honour highlights the vital community work carried out by local newspapers like The Northern Echo and the Hartlepool Mail.”
He added: “This is a huge thing for my mum who broke down in tears when she found out, so I’m kind of dedicating it to her really.
“I owe special thanks to my wife, Heather, for all her support.”
Mr Barron is a board member of the Future Sport charity, the National Council for the Training of Journalists, Darlington Partnership and Darlington Cares, and a governor of the Tony Blair Sports Foundation.
He is also president of Darlington Operatic Society, and serves on the advisory panel of Darlington Football Club.
Last year, he was made a Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham.