JOAN BERMAN A WOMAN who has dedicated her life to helping people with learning disabilities has been awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours list. Joan Berman, 74, pictured right, has been involved with the work since 1958 and became chairman of th

SQUADRON LEADER JOHN THORNLEY

JOAN BERMAN

A WOMAN who has dedicated her life to helping people with learning disabilities has been awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Joan Berman, 74, pictured right, has been involved with the work since 1958 and became chairman of the St Ives branch of Mencap in the 1970s.

Mrs Berman, from St Ives, heard she had been honoured in November after coming out of a nine-day coma following a heart attack.

THE REV CANON OWEN SPENCER-THOMAS

She said: "My husband Henry picked up the letter but he had to wait for me to wake up before he could tell me the news."

Born in London in 1933, Mrs Berman spent part of the war living in the Buckinghamshire countryside before moving to St Ives with Henry in 1957.

Mr Berman was a biology teacher at St Ivo School for 44 years, before his retirement in the early 1990s.

It was a chance comment from a fellow Women's Institute member in 1958 that saw Mrs Berman become involved with people with learning disabilities.

"Shortly after I had joined, a lady asked if anyone would be interested in helping out," Mrs Berman said.

"I had no idea then that I would spend 50 years of my life doing just that."

As chairman of the St Ives and district branch of Mencap, Mrs Berman has responsibility for surrounding villages as far as Ramsey and holds a weekly group at the Mid Leys Centre hosting activities for people with learning disabilities.

Despite still recovering from her heart attack and using a walking frame following a knee operation, Mrs Berman still met her group in the week before Christmas.

"There are provisions there but it is never enough," she said. "A lot of time is taken up by campaigning these days - as a voluntary group the funding is not there for us."

Neither Mrs Berman nor her husband has ever driven, preferring to use public transport. The couple had three children, Linda, Michael and Peter. Peter died of cancer in 2007. They have five grandchildren.

Mrs Berman intends to continue with her work and said: "It is immensely satisfying - particularly when you can see the work you are doing is helping people and getting results."

SQUADRON LEADER JOHN THORNLEY

SQUADRON Leader John Francis Thornley has been awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours list for his work with the Ministry of Defence at RAF Wyton.

Sqn Ldr Thornley, 62, pictured right, has spent his life in the Air Force and is commended for his work developing avionic systems for the Tristar aircraft at Wyton.

The Needingworth man described the award of the MBE as coming "out of the blue" and said he was "very proud" to accept the commendation.

Born in Lancashire, Sqn Ldr Thornley first came to RAF Wyton in 1978, four years before he was sent to Ascension Island during the Falklands War.

Of the conflict, Sqn Ldr Thornley said: "Although I had been in the military since 1961, it was not until being handed a tin hat and having a gun in my hand that made it all seem very real."

On his return from Ascension Island, Sqn Ldr Thornley was ­decorated with the British Empire Medal.

He received the commendation for his work in Operation Corporate - the codename given to the British involvement in the Falklands Conflict.

Sqn Ldr Thornley lived in Brampton and Wyton-on-the-Hill during his time with the Air Force before he left in 1999.

Since leaving he has taken up a position at RAF Wyton helping to "bring the Tristar into the 21st Century".

He said: "I am very honoured to have been selected to receive the MBE - throughout my life I have simply endeavoured to do my job in a professional manner."

Married to wife Pat, Sqn Ldr Thornley has two sons living in Huntingdonshire, a daughter living in Australia, and five grandchildren.

THE REV CANON OWEN SPENCER-THOMAS

A JOURNALIST and clergyman who spent many years covering Huntingdonshire for Anglia Television has been awarded the MBE.

The Rev Canon Owen Spencer-Thomas, 67, pictured right, worked for Anglia TV for more than 20 years from the 1970s to the 1990s, covering the west of the region for half that time.

Mr Spencer-Thomas, who lives in Cambridge, said he covered stories involving Anglian Water and Huntingdonshire District Council - as well as capsizing a canoe in Alconbury Weston while covering flooding.

Now an honourary canon of Ely Cathedral, Mr Spencer-Thomas oversaw a number of fundraising events in Hunts in his role as chairman of the East Anglian Autistic Support Trust (EACH). These included a fun run around Grafham Water and a major sale of work at the St Ivo Centre, in St Ives.

In his role with EACH, in 1999, Mr Spencer-Thomas masterminded a £1.5million project to provide the county's first specialised accommodation and day care for adults with autism.

Married to Margaret, Mr Spencer-Thomas has two disabled children and has been involved in voluntary work since he was a teenager and has continued to support a range of charity projects for more than 50 years.

Mr Spencer-Thomas said: "It is a great privilege to be honoured in this fashion.

"When you undertake voluntary work, you soon become aware that the success of a project is never down to one person alone, but rather the achievement of a highly-committed team.

"I share this honour with many unnamed volunteers, friends and my family, all of whom have supported and encouraged me.