Our queen of hearts’

HUNDREDS of mourners paid their final respects to Edna Betts on Thursday and said farewell to a woman they regarded as the uncrowned Queen of Huntingdon. It seemed that everyone in the packed St Mary s Church, Huntingdon, had their own story of how she h

HUNDREDS of mourners paid their final respects to Edna Betts on Thursday and said farewell to a woman they regarded as the uncrowned Queen of Huntingdon.

It seemed that everyone in the packed St Mary's Church, Huntingdon, had their own story of how she had helped them or someone they knew.

Mrs Betts, who died of cancer, aged 62, was manager and then landlady of The Lord Protector in Huntingdon for 12 years.

She died, like the Queen Mother, on Easter Sunday, and it was evident she had been far more than a pub landlady to her hundreds of loyal customers. People came to the funeral from as far away as Spain.

Sitting at the back of the church, Andrew Mulgrew, whose home is next to the pub on Mayfield Road, said: "My wife, Margaret was seriously ill in hospital and no one could get her to eat, not the doctors or nurses and not me, but Edna told her she had to eat and that made all the difference, she did eat and she recovered."

He added: "I was out of work and my father was seriously ill at home in Ireland. Edna said to me, if you need the fare to go home, you come to me."

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Another mourner, Sylvia Dixon told The Hunts Post: "Nothing seemed like a mountain to her. Whatever she did for people, she never puffed herself up over it. She did it, and that was it - and I never knew that she had had such a hard start in life."

Possibly few people did know. During the service, it emerged Edna had been obliged to create a family for herself and her brother since she was a very little girl.

Giving the eulogy, her brother, Steven Nation, recalled his first memory of meeting her in a children's home in Cheshire when he was three and she was two days off being six. It was September 3, 1949.

He said: "She was introduced to the brother she didn't know she had. I arrived from another orphanage. The authorities had decided it was time that we got together.

"She looked confused. Then she realised that I belonged to her, I was her family and from that moment on, she became my big sister, giving me unconditional love."

Mr Nation said he and his sister grew up in a children's home with about 200 other children, and were looked after in a family of eight by a housemother, Sister Margaret.

Edna had applied to become a nurse but was told she was too young.

"She was too impatient and impulsive to sit around and wait, so she joined the Army for three years.

"She met and married Gerry [Jolly] and settled in Huntingdon and raised her two sons, Martin and Gary."

Edna and Gerry were divorced while their sons were still little. She met and was due to marry another Gerry, Gerry Betts some years later and changed her name to his. However, tragedy struck when he was killed in a car crash before they were married.

Mr Nation said his sister, who went on to become a grandmother, had led "a rollercoaster life", which had left her determined rather than defeated.

"She always had time for others but she did not always have time for herself."

Looking out at the full church - there were also hundreds of people unable to get in - he said: "She was a caring sister, potential nurse, a wife, a loving mother, a landlady/community worker and special friend to each and every one of us. Her friendship was unconditional. There were no strings attached."

His speech was met with applause.

The Reverend Mark Savage, who led the service, read out some of the cards sent to Edna's family. Extracts included: "Our memories will be of Edna enjoying the people around her."

"Nothing was too much trouble or too inconvenient for her. She will be remembered for her kindness, her sense of humour and because she was a very good listener."

"She was a truly great lady, she will be sadly missed. Huntingdon will be a sadder place without her."

Reverend Savage added: "Her unfailing kindness and the support she gave to others will stand as an inspiration to us all."

Edna's flower-covered coffin was carried into the church to the song You're Beautiful by James Blunt and left the church to Simply The Best by Tina Turner. She was buried at North Street Cemetery in Huntingdon. The family requested donations for Cancer Research UK.

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