by Hayley Robinson
Tributes have poured in for fundraising stalwart Joyce Fuller.
The 88-year-old died of pneumonia at Medway Maritime Hospital, Gillingham, on New Year’s Eve, just 24 hours after being admitted on to a ward.
Her death not only came as a shock to her son Geoffrey, his wife Liz and their five-year-old twins Matthew and Ellie, but also the Swale community.
Until she passed away Mrs Fuller, of Berkeley Court, Sittingbourne, was vice president of the Sittingbourne Society, president of Swale Footpaths Groups and a member of the joint governing body for The Oaks Infants and Minterne Junior School.
She was also a lifelong active member of the Sittingbourne and Sheppey Conservative Association where she was deputy chairman with special responsibility for Conservative Policy Forum discussion.
But her work for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) will be best remembered.
After losing her husband Bill, aged 58, to a heart attack in 1978 the widow set up the Swale and Sittingbourne branch for the charity in 1984.
Over the years she organised various fundraising events such as sponsored swims, walks and skipping events, generating £250,000 for the Foundation.
Son Geoffrey, 51, said: "To be honest the British Heart Foundation is one of things I’m most proud of her for. She was very determined. Her death was a great shock but there are a lot of things to be thankful for. It was quick and she was comfortable and it was in hospital.
"She would have hated not being able to drive and get out and about. Driving was a mark of her independence."
Those who knew Joyce will know her age was a closely guarded secret.
Mr Fuller added: "She thought people would write her off but I always said to her ‘on the contrary you should be proud of how old you are’.
"Now she’s gone her secret can be revealed. I don’t think she would mind, I think she would be happy for people to know."
Kim Brophy, fundraising volunteer manager at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Joyce’s contribution to the fight against heart disease cannot be under-estimated. She was a fantastic, tireless ambassador and will be missed."
John Burke, chairman of Sittingbourne and Sheppey Conservative Association SSCA, said: "Joyce Fuller deserves the highest recognition and thanks from us all. To the end, despite suffering from osteoporosis, she was still actively involved in all her favourite charities.
"While never seeking public office Joyce attended every Conservative Party Conference over the last 40 years since 1973 where she made many conference speeches and was well known throughout the party and to many Prime Ministers, Cabinet members and MPs.
"It will be hard to replace her energy and commitment."
Richard Calvert, chairman of The Sittingbourne Society, said: "The society owes her a great debt for all her work.
"She took a special interest in the administration of the John George Jordan bequest fund which the society administered for the benefit of the people of Milton Regis.
"In short, the society will miss the commitment and energy Joyce brought to it."
Cllr Adam Tolhurst said: "Joyce was a very private person who adored and was very proud of her son. She also missed her late husband very much to the extent that she would not remove the rose bushes in her front garden at any cost because he planted them just before he died.
"Joyce was very secretive when it came to her age because she didn't want to be written off as too old, or not to be taken seriously. It just demonstrates that age is not a barrier. Joyce was a true character of Swale and she will be missed by many."
Gordon Henderson MP said: "I was desperately sad to learn of the death of Joyce Fuller. She was a real stalwart of our local community and epitomised what is meant by the Big Society.
"She was passionate about politics and few people realise the level of influence she had on policy formulation within the Conservative Party.
"The last time I saw Joyce was in November at the count for the election of Kent’s Police Commissioner. Her dedication in attending that count sums up Joyce Fuller."
Conservative colleagues Cllr Mike Whiting and Cllr Alan Willicombe said:"We are proud to have considered ouselves Joyce's friends, and it was a terrible shock to hear of her death. Our thoughts are with her family.
"Joyce gave selflessly of her time to a number of charities and organisations in the town, particularly the British Heart Foundation, for who she raised many thousands of pounds over the years. We, along with many others, will miss her greatly."
Labour leader Roger Truelove said: "Those of us in the Sittingbourne Labour Party were sorry to hear about the death of Joyce Fuller.
"Joyce was the "big society" before it became a political catch phrase. She was involved in so many charitable and voluntary organisations. She had a sharp mind and could see through ill thought out waffle."
The family will hold a private funeral for Joyce later this month but anyone who knew her is invited to attend a thanksgiving service at St Michael’s Church, High Street, Sittingbourne, on Wednesday, January 23, at 2pm.
Instead of flowers people are asked to make a donation to the British Heart Foundation Sittingbourne branch via R High and Sons, 1 Bayford Road, Sittingbourne, telephone 01795 472958.
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