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Diana 'part of the fabric of the town'

PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 June 2008 | UPDATED: 07:27 01 August 2010

BUNGAY was this week mourning a woman described as "so much part of the fabric of this fine old town."

Diana Belcher, twice Town Reeve and the current chairman of the Bungay Society, died in hospital on Friday, and since then many tributes have been pouring into her home in Earsham Street.

BUNGAY was this week mourning a woman described as “so much part of the fabric of this fine old town.”

Diana Belcher, twice Town Reeve and the current chairman of the Bungay Society, died in hospital on Friday, and since then many tributes have been pouring into her home in Earsham Street.

Though she had been ill for a while the news of her untimely death at the age of 70 shocked the town which she came to love since moving there in 1966, and to which she gave so much of her time in public service.

The current Town Reeve, Martin Evans, said Diana and Michael Belcher immediately made he and his wife feel welcome when they moved to Bungay.

“It is Diana to whom I owe my nomination as a Foundation feoffee of the Town Trust and her ever-willing support was unstinting in all things we did with the Bungay Society,” he said.

“We were planning an opening ceremony for the Cobbles and Calary Pears plaque at Cork Bricks when she become ill. This will now go ahead, dedicated to her memory. She was so much part of the fabric of this fine old Town that her memory will live on, far beyond our puny efforts. Our thoughts are with Michael and their family."

The Mayor, John Groom, called Mrs Belcher “a true ambassador for Bungay, having been involved in practically everything in the town, and showed great enthusiasm and encouragement to others. She has helped me in all sorts of ways.

“”She had her own way of doing things and it seemed to enthuse others.”

At the town council committees on Monday a minute's silence was observed in her memory.

Mrs Belcher took over the chairmanship of the Bungay Society from Mr Evans two years ago - her second stint in the role, and filled it with determination and a positive approach despite her indifferent health. She had planned to preside over the Cork Bricks ceremony.

Born in Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire, she moved to Westleton as a girl and was educated at the Sir John Leman School at Beccles before training as a nurse at Middlesex Hospital. Later she became night sister at Southwold Hospital, and met her husband, Michael, who ran a garage in the town. They married in 1959, and later became the only husband and wife to have both filled the role of Town Reeve of Bungay - a unique record in a unique office.

Mr Belcher bought T Simons Garage in Bungay in 1964 and they moved to the town two years later. Mrs Belcher became company secretary for the business which also had a garage at Beccles.

When they sold the business in 1985 Mrs Belcher returned to nursing after retraining at All Hallows Hospital at Ditchingham and worked for a nursing agency before becoming matron at Brooke House, a post she held for some years.

By then she was fully involved in the town's life, becoming a foundation feoffee on the Town Trust in 1978, and joining the Bungay Society when it was formed in the 1970s.

Mrs Belcher became Town Reeve for the first time in 1992, and that year was instrumental in restoring the role of Town Crier to Bungay. It also gave her great satisfaction that her appeal for All Hallows raised £2889 and enabled her to buy ultrasound equipment for its new physiotherapy department.

Twelve years later, little more than a year after undergoing major heart surgery, she became Town Reeve for a second time, with one of the highlights being to host a lunch for former Town Reeve Mrs Lilian Trafford on her 100th birthday.

In a busy life she was chairman of the Trust's Castle Hills committee, a member of the Bungay Castle Trust, the Friends of All Hallows Hospital, Bungay Inner Wheel Club, the Bungay in Bloom Committee, the Three Rivers Talking Newspaper for the Blind and the Bungay fundraising committee of the NSPCC.

In all these things her organisational ability, allied to her kindness and concern for others, meant she was held in great affection by many people. She said only recently: “Bungay has given us all that any town can offer, and we both try to repay a little of that generosity. Bungay is a place of warmth and friendship, and we have never regretted the decision to move here.”

Mrs Belcher herself contributed greatly to that warmth and friendship.

Mrs Belcher leaves her husband, children Andrew, Mimi and Sandy, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A funeral and thanksgiving service for her life will be held at Holy Trinity Church Bungay next Wednesday at 11am.

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