Farewell to charity stalwart and royalist Ennis

PUBLISHED: 17:22 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 25 August 2010

A TIRELESS charity worker, community activist and royalist has died aged 83.

A TIRELESS charity worker, community activist and royalist has died aged 83.

Ennis Smith of Lea Vale, Crayford, died at Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford, last Thursday from pneumonia.

The former Dartford councillor was regularly featured in the Times during her annual campaign in Bexley and Dartford to collect Christmas presents for troops overseas.

The pensioner dedicated decades to organising fundraising events charities, inparticular the Royal Star and Garter Homes and the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Known for her unflinching support of war veterans, she often organising regular trips for the Chelsea pensioners to special events, such as trooping the colour and visits to Buckingham Palace.

Her daughter Ennis Higgs, 50, of Lawrence Hill Gardens, Dartford, said: "She never said why she did it but I know she loved charity work. Everyone looked up to her."

Falklands veteran Simon Weston OBE, who famously recovered from horrific burns he received when Sir Galahad was sunk in 1982, remembers Mrs Smith as a bedside visitor at the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital, Woolwich.

On her death, the former Welsh Guard, 47, said: "It's a bit of a shock for me. I did honestly believe she was bomb-proof.

"I just thought she would just sit down and fall asleep one day out of sheer exhaustion - she did so much.

"I was only about 20 when I met her. She would come into the ward with flasks of 'latte' coffee with lots of milk and sweeties.

"She was wonderful and would talk to us about her twin grandsons. I remember her and her husband Clarence very well.

"She will be sadly missed by a lot of people."

A staunch royalist, the great-grandmother also devoted her time organising events to celebrate the royal family.

Over 30 years, Mrs Smith encouraged residents to sign giant birthday cards for the Queen Mother at the Mall shopping centre, Bexleyheath and raised money from this for charity.

On the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, she was bereft but continued to support the Royal Family and was regularly invited to Clarence House.

On several occasions, she met members of the royal family, including the Queen in 2005 on her visit to Bexley.

One of 13 children, she started fundraising at seven, collecting pennies for soldiers in Welling High Street.

At 16 she lied about her age in order to drive ambulances during WWII.

The proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother kept in constant touch with her 16 nieces and nephews, three children, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

The pensioner is survived by just one of her siblings, a brother living in Crayford.

Mrs Smith's death followed a long spell of illness that saw her regularly visiting hospital.

A public funeral is due to be held on September 30 at St Stephen's Catholic Church, Deepdene Road, Welling, at 10am, followed by a cremation at Eltham crematorium at 11.30am.

An ambulance service drape will cover Mrs Smith's coffin along with a 1940s' service cap.

Mrs Higgs said: "She would have loved as many people there as possible. She always loved to be the centre of attention."

To make a donation in Mrs Smith's memory, send a cheque payable to Royal Star and Garter Homes to Kate Mead, Kentish Times, Roxby House, Station Road, Sidcup, Kent, DA15 7EJ.

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