Necton widow leaves �667,000 to charities

Retired dinner lady Sheila Bird gave no hint that she would leave an incredible legacy of �667,000 to charities in Norfolk.

Described as 'incredibly private', Mrs Bird divided her money between eight charities - including Swaffham Cottage Hospital, where she stayed as a patient prior to her death last year.

'Sheila was a lovely, kind person but very private. She wouldn't believe the impact this has made and the publicity it caused,' said former colleague Jackie Allen-Vear.

Mrs Bird, whose husband Colin died in 2003, worked at the former Necton First School for around ten years and was much-loved by the young pupils.

'She was a real mother figure and gave so much. I admired her a huge amount and Sheila was a lovely person,' said Mrs Allen-Vear, who still works as a dinner lady at Necton Primary School.

Mrs Bird, of Brackenwoods, Necton, died in May last year but her estate has recently been finalised and cheques for �83,000 sent to Swaffham hospital; the League of Friends of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn; Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB); East Dereham's Salvation Army; Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for research into eye conditions; Lynn's Samaritans; Marie Curie and the British Heart Foundation.

'At a time when the Government is taking money away from a lot of organisations, Sheila's money will make a huge difference to these eight charities,' said Mrs Allen-Vear, also of Necton.

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'I think if she had realised the impact this has caused, she probably would have given the money anonymously,' she added.

John Child, director of the NNAB, said the charity was 'tremendously grateful' to Mrs Bird.

'We had no idea it was coming and we receive no help from the state so it will make huge difference,' he said.

Mr Child said the charity costs around �1m a year to run and relied on legacies and donations from members of the public to enable it to provide a range of services.

'It restores your faith,' he said.

A spokesman for the NNUH said: 'We are very grateful to the late Sheila Bird's generous bequest to us which our patients will be able to benefit from in the future.'

Mavis White, Modern Matron at Swaffham Community Hospital, said: 'This donation is an incredibly generous gift which will benefit patients at Swaffham Community Hospital for years to come. Along with any other donations we receive, it will be used to help us further improve the excellent health and care services that we provide to local people.'

Mrs Bird had no children and apart from her home in Necton, had also inherited a property belonging to her late parents, Edith and Stanley Spencer, of Dereham.

The former dinner lady and her husband both worked at Barclays bank before they retired and Mrs Bird went on to join the school where she was one of a small team of dinner ladies.

Mrs Allen-Vear joined around a year prior to Mrs Bird's death but said in the time she had worked with Mrs Bird she had discovered her colleague's quiet dedication.

'She came in one winter after she had taken a bad fall. She had an enormous black eye and was very shaken, but determined to come to work. Sheila had to be sent home but she had struggled in even though she needed medical attention really. It showed what sort of person she was,' said Mrs Allen-Vear.