HER incredible fundraising started as a favour to a friend.
Fifty years on and tireless Alethea Collins is still collecting money for The Poppy Appeal and making sure everyone in her village wears theirs with pride.
The pensioner has sold a countless number of poppies for half a century – braving the wintry weather every year and knocking on doors to boost funds.
Every year without fail, the Fratton-born pensioner has put up a patriotic Remembrance display – complete with a Union Jack – in the window of Collins Garage, her family’s filling station in Westbourne, near Emsworth.
Alethea said: ‘A lady that lived up the road always did a lot for the British Legion. Somebody was not well one year.
‘She said: “you wouldn’t stand in for them would you for one year?”
‘I said: “oh alright”. I have been doing it ever since!’
Not one to blow her own trumpet, Alethea sees collecting donations as an important duty.
‘Somebody has got to do it and I did not mind,’ said Alethea.
‘I was brought up with it – I was always brought up with poppies at school.
‘The time goes so quickly!
‘I just do it. Every year it comes round and that’s it.’
Alethea puts a lot of effort into decorating the shop window every year and has included in previous years a cenotaph and military memorabilia, as well as a colourful array of poppies in all shapes and sizes.
The mum-of-two said: ‘People are always interested.
‘I have never seen anyone say no to a poppy.’
Alethea totted up that she thinks she has raised a total of £5,961 – not including this year.
Her son Christopher, who also works at the garage, said: ‘It’s an incredible achievement.
‘I am naturally very proud. My mother considers it a privilege to do it.’
Her husband Philip said: ‘She’s done a good job.
‘It’s worthwhile for the lads and we do what we can to help.’
Alethea stopped knocking on doors a couple of years ago as she always had to go out at night as people were working during the day and she was worried about her safety.
But she says she has no plans to stop collecting money for The Poppy Appeal from the family’s garage.
She added: ‘You should be proud of wearing your poppy for what the lads gave and what they are still giving up today. They do a good job.’