Volunteer, 101, is one in a billion

The UK’s oldest school governor and community councillor has been hailed as a “one in a billion” role model for volunteers in 2013.

At 101 going on 102, Mrs Mary Augusta Edwards, from Bodorgan, on Anglesey, is still going strong and continues to devote herself to public service.

Her latest fan is Sarah Rochira, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, who described Mrs Edwards as an inspiration.

According to Ms Rochira, the efforts of volunteers like Mrs Edwards contribute £1 billion a year to the Welsh economy.

The two met at the Rhos care home, in Malltraeth, where Mrs Edwards visits every Friday to cheer up the residents.

Ms Rochira was determined to meet the super centenarian after she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wales Care Awards organised by Care Forum Wales.

Mrs Edwards has made a massive contribution to the life of the island community, which was recognised when she was presented with a bouquet by Anglesey County Council. At a meeting in Llangefni Councillor Bob Parry described her as “The Queen of the Council”.

She lost her husband, local GP JO Edwards, when she was only 31 but, as a nurse, she kept the surgery open through locum doctors until 1948.

She was elected to represent Bodorgan on Aethwy District Council in 1948 and was twice chairman before it disappeared under reorganisation in 1974. In that year she was made an MBE for her work in the area. She then become a member of Anglesey County Council, on which she served until 1996 and was Mayor in 1976-77.

Mrs Edwards is still a member of Bodorgan Community Council and, with 75 years’ service at the village school, is the longest-serving school governor in the UK.

She still lives alone in the house which she and her husband had built and enjoys keeping the garden in trim.

Mrs Edwards, who has two sons and a daughter, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, has an amazing memory and a wealth of anecdotes based on her experiences in the community and as a councillor.

Ms Rochira said: “I think she’s inspirational, not just to older people but to people across Wales.

“She’s one of our oldest volunteers in Wales and has just made a difference to the lives of so many people. The ethos public service is still very strong in Mrs Edwards.

“She was telling me how in the 1920s she started as a nurse when she was just 17, and then how she became a councillor and how ever since then she’s been in public service.

“When I asked her what motivated her to go into public service she told me that i was quite simply because she wanted to give something back, because she’d had so many people that had helped her and she wanted to help people as well.

“I think that’s a real testament to her character and what a wonderful person she is.

“Mrs Edwards is a particularly special lady but I have to say there are many older people, thousands of older people across Wales who day in day out give great public service.

“I’ve met so many older people who go volunteering, sometimes formal but very often informal, quite simply keep families and communities together.

“I’ve spoken many times and the Older Person’s Commissioner for Wales about what an asset our older people are. They’re often talked about as if they’re a burden or a liability and that’s quite simply outrageous.

“The value of the support that older people provide across Wales is quite simply priceless, their knowledge their experience, the wealth of their compassion and kindness is extraordinary.

“The WRVS have valued older people’s contribution to the Welsh economy as £1 billion net, that’s after health and social care cost.”

“Older people are not a group apart. We need to remember who older people are – they’re our friends, our family, people we love, they’re the people who raised us and taught us. They still have much to give back to us, and we need to recognise and value that.”

For her part, Mrs Edwards was delighted to meet the Older People’s Commissioner but modest about her own many achievements.

She said: “I was very pleased with the way she spoke on behalf of the aged, and today I am even more pleased, and I see that she is a young woman and I that she will back the aged to the best of her ability.

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