For 40 years, come rain or shine, Eileen Stoat knocked on people’s doors and stood outside shops to sell her poppies to help the forces.
And, at the age of 92, she is still the most successful poppy collector in Waterlooville having raised more than £1,000 last autumn.
The pensioner was a picture of surprise and laughter as she was presented with a trophy for raising the most cash for the Royal British Legion during last year’s collection.
It was the eighth time the former Wren has received the trophy from the RBL.
Over the past decade, she has raised £11,181.28p – and probably four times that amount in her 40 years of volunteering. Eileen was surprised with the award during a friendship club she attends every week at Windsor Court, in Anne Crescent, Waterlooville.
‘You don’t do it for what you get,’ said Eileen, of Corbett Road, Waterlooville.
‘It was just a thing I was asked to do and it became a race of who was going to collect the most money.
‘I used to go and stand outside shops and do house-to-house collections. I looked forward to it.’
Eileen’s father was a physical training instructor in the army and she was a very fit woman in her youth as she was a gymnast.
Asked why she wanted to help the veterans and serving personnel, she said: ‘My father was sent out to India when he was 11 and he was an orphan as well.
‘He used to talk to me about who helps who – I think it was because of that.’
Her son Ken Stoat, 66, from Denmead, was full of emotion as he saw his mother getting the trophy, which will be her last as she has decided to retire from collections.
‘She’s amazing,’ he said.
Richard Hill Brown, poppy appeal organiser for Waterlooville, said: ‘It’s not just the two weeks of selling poppies. There’s all the preparation of the tins and the boxes and we send out about 180 across Waterlooville and Eileen helped prepare all of those.
‘Then she was happy to help me go round Waterlooville precinct and deliver a lot of those boxes. We were there with our shopping trolley trundling along outside banks and building societies!’
He added: ‘She had a great word with everybody.
‘Especially when she was challenged about wearing her husband’s medals on the wrong side.
‘She was able to say “those aren’t his medals, they’re mine!”.
‘I can see her now scrubbing away, getting all the sticky labels off the tins and folding the boxes flat ready for next year.’