North Essex's community heroes featured in the New Year Honours list
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
In a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, community heroes from north Essex have stepped up to the plate and been recognised for their efforts in the Queen's New Year Honours list for 2021.
Manningtree's Richard Saunders said it came as a "nice surprise" to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to disability golf.
He ran the British Amputee and Les Autres Sports Association for many years and helped people who had lost limbs to enjoy golf, until the charity was taken over by England Golf.
Mr Saunders said he has been involved with sport his whole life and his work had been important to help people regain confidence.
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He said: “It’s a surprise but a nice surprise. I was not aware of it.
"They think 'if he can do it, why can’t I?'"
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Beryl Jonsen, a teacher at Holy Trinity Primary School in Colchester, has also been awarded a BEM for her services to education.
She is still teaching at 85 years old and previously spent 30 years at Monkwick Junior School, as well as spells volunteering in Afghanistan and Ecuador.
Mrs Jonsen, from Copford, said: "I got the letter from the Cabinet Office and I was sure it was a hoax.
"It was a total shock. I could not believe it."
Mrs Jonsen has not been in the school since February due to Covid-19, but said she is desperate to get back to the classroom.
She added: "Once you are a teacher it doesn’t go away. You have got it for life.
“I would like to thank all the wonderful children in Colchester who have put up with me all these years."
Having spent almost two decades working with various charities in Essex, Matthew Swan, from Colchester, has been recognised with a BEM.
Mr Swan became involved with the charity Attend in 2002 and was made its national treasurer.
The 52-year-old has also served as a member of Colchester's Rotary Club and vice-chairman and treasurer of Mercury Theatre.
Mr Swan was most recently appointed chairman of multiple sclerosis charity MS-UK in August 2019 and raised £3,000 for the organisation by running the London Marathon in 2013.
He said: "I think I started getting involved with things around my mid-thirties just to give something back - that's the main thing.
"It's quite strange to be recognised. It's very humbling but a huge surprise.
"I'm sure thousands of people could and probably should be recognised in a year like this."