New Year's Honours: Gosport couple say award will keep their loved one's memory aliveÂ
A GOSPORT couple say their joint award will help keep the memory of a family member alive.
Graham and Juliette Hewitt will receive BEMs for their services to people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Hampshire.
The pair, both aged 79, were inspired to set up a Gosport and Fareham branch of the MS Society after Juliette's sister Diana was diagnosed with the disease aged only 19.
Although Diana passed away at the age of 42, Juliette said: '˜Our work keeps my sister's memory alive.
'˜She was the reason we started it all, almost in her memory. Her life wasn't in vain. Something positive come out of it.
'When she was diagnosed we felt so isolated and alone. Didn't want that for anyone, there should be someone you can turn to. Not just a doctor or nurse but someone to lend a listening ear.'
Over 30 years ago the couple established the Gosport and Fareham branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society to support sufferers of MS. In that time they have raised in excess of Â£450,000 over the years for both the branch and the MS Society.
The branch offers a physiotherapy group twice a month, yoga every other week, Pilates every week, among other meet-ups including meals and tea. Money raised also goes towards buying much-needed equipment for people such as wheelchairs and shower chairs.
Recognition also came as a '˜boost' for the pair as Graham, who has previously served as a councillor and mayor of Gosport, has been in QA Hospital over the Christmas period with kidney failure.
Juliette added: 'I had no idea, it was a complete surprise. Graham was in hospital when we got the letter and it gave him a Â boost as he has had really bad health recently.'
Graham had also been instrumental in raising awareness about MS when he lobbied for more accurate data on how many people had the disease in the UK. His efforts showed that more than 100,000 people were living with the condition, compared to original estimates of 80,000.
He said: '˜There was no data whatsoever, it was based on guesswork and that was wrong.
'˜The other main thing was that being disabled costs a great deal of money to the individual and as a successful branch gives us the opportunity to raise money for them. We were also successful because the support available wasn't local.
'˜It was a great surprise and an honour to be on the list. I had no idea.'