Charity worker and former council chairman Barbara Dearden-Potter receives the British Empire Medal

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A former Seaton council chairman’s years of dedicated service to the town has been recognised by The Queen.

Barbara Anne Dearden-Potter has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours list for her outstanding community work.

She told The Herald she had been completely “overcome and humbled” to discover how highly so many people had thought of her.

“I’ve always tried to do my best for the town and shall accept the BEM on behalf of Seaton,” she said.

Mrs Dearden-Potter moved to the resort in 1967 with her two youngest children following a broken first marriage, the two older boys remaining with their father.

She received a lot of friendly help from local people and soon settled in to community life.

She helped out at Stella Maris Convent and got generally involved in the church and Christian Aid, when the late George Clare was the organiser. She also worked as a home help for Devon County Council.

After joining the Red Cross she became the district welfare officer, then studied for a BA(Hons) degree with the Open University, followed by a TOPS course to refresh former secretarial skills.

She represented the Red Cross on various organisations, becoming secretary of the disablement income group and the local council for voluntary service.

In 1976 she was appointed clerk-typist/librarian at the IBA Harman Engineering Training College which had recently opened in the old convent grounds.

Retirement in 1990 gave her the opportunity to repay some of what Seaton had given to her over the years.

She was elected to the town council and served for 12 years, two of them as chairman. Planning issues became a particular interest and she attended the officer meetings when regeneration was first mooted in 1995, becoming very involved in the process, including helping to stage the ‘planning for real’ exercise.

She became a director of the Seaton Development Trust and has worked with the group ever since, currently as its vice-chairman.

She was instrumental in saving the Underfleet toilet block from demolition.

Other voluntary work included teaching adult reading, driving for the CVS and taking blind and partially sighted people to their club in Sidford, eventually helping to set up a similar group in Seaton with which she is still involved.

In January 2004 she helped found Seaton Phoenix, filling a gap for a “truly local charity”. Since then almost £40,000 has been donated to local causes and it was with great regret that, due to the increasing age and infirmity of its membership, the charity is closing at the end of March.

Paying tribute to the community she has served for so well for so many years Mrs Dearden Potter added: “Without a deep faith and trust in God and the support of the wonderful people of Seaton none of this would have been possible. The BEM honours the whole of Seaton.”

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