Rugby volunteer of 50 years set to step aside

Mrs Emery with her British Empire Medal.
Mrs Emery with her British Empire Medal.

A Rugby woman has shared her memories of her time volunteering for charities as she prepares to stand down after 50 years.

Beryl Emery, 75, began volunteering with the RSPCA when she was 25, serving as honorary secretary for the Rugby branch for 25 years.

Mrs Emery and her daughter outside Buckingham Palace.

Mrs Emery and her daughter outside Buckingham Palace.

In 1986 she helped set up the Rugby branch of Parkinson’s UK.

The mother of two said she became determined to set up a Rugby branch of Parkinson’s UK when she found her husband, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was 32 and died aged 58, had few places to go for support.

Since 1986 the group has grown to include around 100 volunteers.

Mrs Emery, of Sycamore Grove, said she first began volunteering for the RSPCA because of her fondness for animals.

She said: “I love animals of all kinds and I wanted to help in whatever way I could.”

She recalled being greatly upset by the attitude some members of the public had towards their pets - with one woman bring a healthy dog to the branch to be put down because they family were due to go on holiday and they did not want to pay for kennel fees.

Mrs Emery said the worst time at the branch was Christmas - as breeders who had miscalculated the amount of puppies they would be able to sell would come to the branch and ask for boxes full of puppies to be put down.

She said she enjoyed most of her time with the charity, as it gave her the opportunity to help pet owners keep their animals healthy.

Mrs Emery left Westlands School for Girls aged 15.

She said: “It was very strict, we had to read the Bible from beginning to end.”

She worked at the Co-op as an under-manager by day while spending her evenings as an usherette at the now demolished Granada cinema.

While volunteering with Parkinson’s UK Mrs Emery said she noticed a shift in attitudes towards the illness as the years went on.

She said in the 1980s many people knew little about Parkinson’s, with some assuming it is contagious as it is a disease.

She said Parkinson’s was also taboo in the eyes of some, meaning sufferers and their families found it difficult to seek support.

Mrs Emery said one of the highlights of her time volunteering for charities was when she was invited to Buckingham Palace to be presented with a British Empire Medal in 2012.

She said: “It was one of the most amazing days of my life.

“The Queen is very pretty in person.

“When I went to curtsy I thought to myself ‘please knees don’t give out’.”

Despite stepping down from the organising role she has in Parkinson’s UK, Mrs Emery said she will continue to support the work of the charity in whatever way she can.