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Tributes paid to Loughborough community activist who died aged 72

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Tributeshavebeenpaidtoamuch-respectedandlikedlocalcommunityactivistwhodiedafterashor

Tributes have been paid to a much-respected and liked local community activist who died after a short illness, aged 72.

Marion Smith, the chair of Loughborough in Bloom, was involved in many local charitable and voluntary organisations, being especially active in helping organise the Bloom local neighbourhood groups.

She served a term as a Charnwood Borough councillor for Southfields Ward and was a school governor at Mountfields Lodge for more than 30 years. Marion was an excellent fund-raiser.

She raised money for John Storer House and its allotment project, Loughborough Town of Sanctuary and Loughborough Labour Party, often by baking cakes or through the sale of honey or plants from her garden in Herrick Road, Loughborough.

She was also well-known for giving talks about bees and bee-keeping to many local organisations. Marion, together with a few local neighbours, was instrumental in raising several thousand pounds for charity through the National Open Gardens scheme.

She also sat on various university committees as a lay member and was a trustee of the Dawson and Fowler Foundation.

One of Marion’s big achievements was to help in the renovation of Unity House in Fennel Street after Andy Reed’s election defeat in 2010.

It was through her efforts that the building was put on a firm financial footing, resulting in the upgrade of the façade in 2018 of one of Loughborough’s iconic Victorian Buildings in the Churchgate conservation area.

Her efforts for the Labour Party were recognised with a personal letter from Sir Keir Starmer during her recent short illness.

Marion’s father’s family originally came from South Wales and what is not so well-known is that in her younger days she was an international athlete representing Wales at 800m and cross-country.

She also held various club records for Charnwood Athletic Club in the late 1970s and before that was the Northern Counties women’s 800m champion during her time studying pharmacy at Bradford University.

Marion worked as an hospital pharmacist for the NHS and then as a locum at various pharmacies in Loughborough while raising her four children. She used to joke that she was the most well-known local drug dealer.

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She worked at this profession for over 40 years with only a short 18 months break when the family moved to Monterey in California for her husband Roger’s employment.

Marion was that rare person who always thought of others before herself, something that was instilled in her partly as a result of her Salvation Army upbringing and her work with the NHS; this helped form her political beliefs.

Because of the Covid-19 situation a celebration of Marion’s life will be held later in the year when meeting restrictions have been lifted.

Coun Hilary Fryer, deputy chair to Marion on the Loughborough in Bloom Board,l said: “Marion was one of the best Chairs I have ever worked with.

“We then became friends, we had known each other from when she was elected as a borough councillor.

“Marion was a good friend, we shared a similar sense of humour. Although we may not have agreed politically we had many things in common. Marion worked so hard on behalf of Loughborough especially with Loughborough in Bloom which was key to winning many awards.

“You rarely saw Marion without a smile on her face. We enjoyed many good times together over the years and I, like many others, will miss her dreadfully.

“My thoughts go to all her family and many friends and colleagues.”

Stuart Brady, who stood as the Labour candidate for the Loughborough seat at the last General Election, also sent a tribute saying: “My family and I were very sad to hear of Marion Smith’s passing.

“Marion was a wonderful one-off. Endless energy, compassion and fun to contribute to myriad causes across Loughborough. She was the embodiment of the very special and supportive community that Loughborough is lucky to have.”

Mike Jones, vice-chair of Loughborough in Bloom’s community participation group also said: “Marion has been a great leader of Loughborough in Bloom for the last few years, putting in an enormous amount of time to make life brighter and happier for local people and visitors to the town, let alone the awards won at East Midlands and national level.

“She will be sadly missed by all who knew and worked with her.”

Andy Rush editor of the Loughborough Echo, who worked with Marion for Loughborough in Bloom, said: “Marion was a brilliant chair for Bloom.

“She did so much for the community and all with a smile and warm humour. She will be missed very much.”

Coun Jonathan Morgan, leader of Charnwood Borough Council said: “It’s very sad to hear this news and my thoughts are with Marion’s family and friends during this time.

“Marion was a very active member of the community and this was reflected in her work as a local councillor.

“She was a friend to many of our councillors and I know she will be missed greatly by all who knew her.”

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