TWO dedicated women have been royally honoured by a representative of The Queen for a combined 100 years of work for people in Hartlepool.
Elizabeth O’Rourke, 67, has worked for the Hartlepool Blind Welfare Association for 52 years, while Valerie Lister has made four decades of contributions to the Hartlepool Civic Society – protecting the heritage of the town.
The pair won British Empire Medals in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and were handed the prestigious silverware by the monarch’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant of Durham, Sue Snowdon, at a special ceremony at Christ Church in Church Square.
Valerie, a retired lecturer and secretary of the civic society, said she was “completely overwhelmed” by the gesture, as was Elizabeth, chief administrator at the Blind Welfare, based in Avenue Road.
“I’m so honoured to be able to get this award,” said Valerie, who lives in Elwick Village. “It was such a surprise and I’m completely overwhelmed.
“I do have to say though that this is not just for me but for my colleagues in the civic society as well who have also worked for many years.
“I also wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for the support of my husband either.”
She added: “It’s so lovely having the service in the Christ Church building as well because the society actually saved it from demolition, it’s quite meaningful for us.”
And Elizabeth told the Mail: “I feel similar to Valerie, I’m really overwhelmed.
“I just can’t quite believe it.
“I was really nervous, but it’s just lovely.”
The proud duo both agreed that they did not carry out the work for any kind of recognition, but said that they were very grateful.
Elizabeth added: “You don’t do it for getting awards or anything like that, you do it because you want to do it and you love what you do.”
Valerie said: “Not many people get this honour so it truly is special.”
Councillor Mary Fleet, the town’s deputy ceremonial mayor, attended the ceremony yesterday afternoon.
She said: “These awards are well deserved.
“They are unsung heroes. You don’t always see the work that they do but they are there behind the scenes working so hard.
“It’s an accolade for the town, not just for them.
“This award was presented by the Lord Lieutenant which is very important because it’s as though the Queen were giving it to them.
“We’re all very proud of these two ladies.”
Elizabeth, who has two children and two grandchildren and is married to husband Arthur, 66, joined the Blind Welfare Association in 1962 and has worked in both paid and voluntary capacities.
Valerie was born and raised in Wingate and Station Town, is also a member of Hartlepool Community Choir, and has previously served as a parish councillor for Elwick.
Being a member of the civic society, she works closely with Hartlepool Borough Council’s conservation and planning teams, aiming to secure protection and improvement of buildings of historic and architectural interest.