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Face to face with Madelon Parsons

PUBLISHED: 15:45 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 08:56 13 July 2010

In her latest Face to Face interview KAREN BETHELL talks to Cromer Honours Award winner Madelon Parsons. Now 85, retired hotelier Madelon has, for the past twenty years, been a volunteer at the town's Cancer Research UK charity shop - a cause very close to her heart .

In her latest Face to Face interview KAREN BETHELL talks to Cromer Honours Award winner Madelon Parsons. Now 85, retired hotelier Madelon has, for the past twenty years, been a volunteer at the town's Cancer Research UK charity shop - a cause very close to her heart . . .

Born at Washbrook, Suffolk, Madelon moved to Cromer as a baby after her parents bought the Abbeyville Hotel in Cabbell Road.

Her father, William Mann, went on to buy a number of Cromer properties, including the next door hotel, the Shaftesbury.

But after he died aged 42 from the effects of being gassed in the First World War, Madelon, then age 11, was forced to grow up quickly - juggling schoolwork with helping her mother attend to guests and look after her 6 siblings.

A spell working at an aunt's hotel in Swaffham saw Madelon meet future husband Albert, who was then stationed at RAF Marham.

The couple, who were married in 1941, returned to Cromer with their three daughters to run the 10-bedroom Verecroft Hotel in Cabbell Road in 1952.

Tragedy struck when Albert died just a few days before Christmas in 1983, and Madelon went to endure further heartache when her oldest daughter Valerie died from cancer 12 years later.

The disease has also claimed the lives of a brother and sister-in-law, and several aunts and uncles, with Madelon's middle daughter Yvonne successfully treated for breast cancer 30 years ago and her son-in-law Paul given the all-clear in 2004.

Determined to do something to help fight the disease, Madelon offered to help out after learning that Cancer Research UK was to open a charity shop at Cromer in October 1988.

She has been a volunteer ever since - also raising cash for the charity by running stalls at car boot sales - and her efforts were rewarded when, 2 weeks ago, she was presented with a Cromer Honours award by town mayor Phil Harris.

What is the best thing about your job?

Meeting lots of nice people and knowing that we are raising money for a very good cause.

And the worst?

I really can't think of one thing I don't like about volunteering here.

What is the one possession you would save if your house was on fire?

All my insurance documents of course, but also my photographs as they are irreplaceable.

Where do you go to unwind?

I love being at home, knitting, and with 12 great-grandchildren, there is plenty to keep me going!

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

Norwich cathedral - it is just so beautiful.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

Other than skiing and horse riding, no!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I really am a happy and contended person, so I wouldn't change anything at all.

What is your proudest moment?

Getting the Cromer Honours Award was lovely. I really wasn't expecting it and it is very nice to feel appreciated.

And your greatest achievement?

Having such a wonderful family. They are all very helpful, they look after me, and I am very lucky as not only have I had 3 lovely daughters, I also have 3 wonderful sons-in-law.

Do you have any fears or phobias?

I am petrified of spiders!

What makes you angry?

I can't think of anything that makes me angry - except perhaps the parking problems in Cromer!

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

I love reading anything by Agatha Christie, but I also enjoy cooking and have a collection of over 6,000 cookery books. My favourite film is Gone With the Wind and, on television, I enjoy programmes about antiques or cookery.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a kind, loving person who tried to do her best for her family.

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