Rushden 'Poppy Lady' Julie recognised in New Year Honours list

She has been awarded a BEM for her voluntary work for the Royal British Legion

By Alison Bagley
Friday, 31st December 2021, 10:30 pm

An 83-year-old Rushden great-grandmother, known as the 'Poppy Lady', has been recognised in the New Year Honours list for voluntary service to veterans in her home town.

Julie West has been awarded a British Empire Medale (BEM) for her commitment to selling poppies on behalf of the Rushden branch of the Royal British Legion every year.

A poppy seller for more than six decades, she has sold the iconic symbol of Remembrance every year since she was 15, apart from during last year's pandemic.

Julie West has been selling poppies since she was 15

Supporting each and every remembrance period since 1953 she has helped to raise an incredible £380,000.

She said: "I do it in memory of my father. I was six when he was killed and my mum was three-months pregnant with my sister. She never got to meet her dad.

"I was working in the Co-op shoe factory office when a man who also worked there got me interested in the Royal British Legion. He knew that my dad had been killed.

"The first poppy I ever had was on a wire. We used to sell them door to door. Now I sell them in supermarkets. It's different because people don't have any change in their pockets."

She was encouraged to get involved by a work colleague

It was in remembrance of her Grenadier Guard father Donald Folder who was killed in action in the Second World War that Julie was convinced to join the annual fundraising drive.

Donald survived the evacuation of Dunkirk but was killed during the allied advance across France in Caen in 1944. Although his name is not on the war memorial in Rushden, Julie has kept alive the names of the town's fallen in the Memorial Chapel in St Mary's Church.

As a member of the church, she took on the responsibility for the reinstatement of the town’s memorial chapel. Enlisting the support of others to clear the area used as a storage site for many years, she organised repair work where necessary to successfully revive the memorial.

Since completion, the chapel has provided an important focal point for local commemorations and is visited by many of the town’s residents.

She said: "It's important to keep the chapel neat so they can pray. I always put some flowers in there."

Julie has enthused the next generation of poppy sellers with daughters Kay and Teresa involved alongside granddaughters Amy and Lucy.

The citation recommending her for the award said: "Known locally as the ‘Poppy Lady’, the impact of her fundraising is outstanding, as she raises vital funds via local supermarkets and street collections. With her continued commitment, the town is able to raise over £1 per head of the population.

"She has worked tirelessly for the charity, forming vital connections with her local community and parish church, ensuring the continuation of their generous support to the RBL.

"Over Remembrance weekend, she can be seen taking an active role in the annual parade, meeting the public, sharing memories and listening to wartime tales. She organises the counting in her local church hall, making time to visit high street shops to express gratitude before joining the count, she represents the legion at its very best.

"For over 65 years she has demonstrated commendable commitment to the RBL cause."

After receiving the award Julie said: "It was a lovely surprise. I think it was because I have been doing it for so long."

The north Northamptonshire New Year Honours list in full: Alison Duckles CBE (Wellingborough: Head, learning and development, Laing O'Rourke. For services to education), Yvonne Baker OBE (Rushden: Chief executive, STEM Learning. For services to STEM education), Dylan Fletcher-Scott MBE (formerly of Desborough: Olympic gold medal winner. For services to sailing), Kevin Moseley MBE (Wollaston: Founder and chief executive officer, SwimFin Ltd. For services to international trade, to investment and to charity), Maisie Summers-Newton MBE (Wollaston: Paralympic gold medal winner. For services to swimming), Charlotte Worthington MBE (Corby: Olympic gold medal winner. For services to BMX racing), Timothy Aldous BEM (Kettering: Works supervisor, Forestry England. For services to forestry), Ben Hodgkinson BEM (Geddington: Created CPAP device. For services to the NHS during Covid-19), Vincent James BEM (Irchester: Employee, Network Rail. For services to prisoners), Aaron Shrive BEM (Desborough: supplied the NHS with PPE. For services to the Covid-19 response), Julie West BEM (Rushden: Poppy Appeal volunteer, Rushden Branch Royal British Legion. For voluntary service to veterans).