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Founder of Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association, Diana Beckley, dies in Serbia

PUBLISHED: 15:02 26 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 27 September 2017

Diana Beckley, who has died in Serbia. Picture: JAMES BASS

Diana Beckley, who has died in Serbia. Picture: JAMES BASS

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2010

A humanitarian aid volunteer and founding member of the Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association has died in Serbia following a head injury.

Diana Beckley, from Rockland St Mary, was on a week’s holiday with her husband Peter and other members of the 22-year-old organisation when she tripped over in an art gallery in the Serbian city of Sombor - 128km from Novi Sad.

Mrs Beckley, a retired teacher in her early 80s, was vice-chairman of the association and was taken to a Novi Sad hospital with serious head injuries and put on a life support machine.

Her husband, another founding member of the association, and her son are currently in Serbia where Mrs Beckley’s body remains.

Doug Underwood, association chairman, said: “Diana was the most important person in the Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association. She had so much talent.

“She was very young with her ideas and was very instrumental in what happened with the association. She got involved in all aspects of it.

“I will miss her immensely. I cannot overstate how important she was as a person. She was dear friend to me and my wife.”

He added: “The association meant everything to Diana. She had Novi Sad in her heart. She made some good friends in Novi Sad. People in the city knew as much, if not more, about Diana than people in Norwich.”

Norwich is twinned with Novi Sad and the Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association was set up in 1985 to support that connection.

It also supports charities, organisations and schools in the city and surrounding area - affected by war in the 1990s - which help disadvantaged and disabled children and adults, among others.

During the Bosnian conflict from 1992-95, Mrs Beckley and her husband linked with the Red Cross and drove across Europe to deliver medical and food supplies to thousands of Bosnian, Croation and Serbian refugees in Novi Sad.

The couple were both made an MBE for their services to twinning as well as honorary citizens of Novi Sad.

Mrs Beckley, who was involved in other organisations, visited the Serbian city about three times a year.

A memorial service was held in Novi Sad City Hall after her death, attended by the city’s mayor.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “I was very saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Diana Beckley. Alongside her husband, Peter, Diana made a tremendous contribution to fostering the long-standing twinning relationship we have with Novi Sad.

“On behalf of the city council and our twinning committee, I send our heartfelt condolences to Diana’s family and friends.”

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