Always energetic

Margaret Stokes combined a lifelong passion for health care with a campaigning zeal for human rights on both the national and international stage.

Margaret Stokes combined a lifelong passion for health care with a campaigning zeal for human rights on both the national and international stage.

Former Exmouth councillor Miss Stokes, who was awarded the OBE in 1998 for services to health and people with special needs, spent her career in the National Health Service variously as a nurse, midwife and health visitor, writes David Marston.

But she also threw herself into voluntary work across a range of charities and organisations in her adopted home of Exmouth, while also working on the bigger picture through the United Nations Association.

Born in Burton on Trent in 1932, Miss Stokes was inspired to be a nurse at the age of seven through her Aunt Emily, a nurse in the armed forces. "I just knew that was what I wanted to do," she said. And she was tremendously proud when her aunt passed on a silver nursing belt buckle: "I want you to have it because you are worthy of it," she told her young niece.

Miss Stokes trained at the Derby Royal Infirmary and later worked for three years in Australia before returning to the UK to care for her mother - while still developing her career.

The energetic charity worker came to Exmouth in 1974 as a health visitor with her life-long friend Pamela Radge, a solicitor at Devon County Council. As Miss Radge's health deteriorated, Miss Stokes also became her carer.

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They shared interests in classical music and human rights. As members of the UK Board of the United Nations Association, they also travelled widely, reporting on women's rights for the UN, from as far a field as New Zealand and South America - where once she ordered an observation aeroplane flight to be cancelled. "The pilot was steaming drunk," she recalled. "We'd have never taken off, let alone landed!"

Nationally, as well as being a lover of art exhibitions and classical concerts, Miss Stokes was past chairman of a charity for business and professional women and also represented the Plymouth Diocese on the Catholic Children's Welfare Council.

Locally, this forthright woman who described herself as a "newsaholic" brought the benefit of her formidable organisational and practical skills and experience to many voluntary groups. This included serving as the (lay) mental health manager of the Exeter and District Community Health Trust; chairman and trustee of the Normanlea Society for learning disabled adults in the town; a founder member of Exmouth and Lympstone Hospiscare and a chairman of Living Options Devon, an enabling organisation for disabled people in Devon, among others. She also served on East Devon District Council for eight years, representing Littleham.

On receiving her OBE in 1998, she said: "At first, I thought it was a spoof because it was from the Labour Party and I was a Conservative councillor."

But she was incredibly proud of the award: "When I got it I pinned it to my pyjamas and wore it in bed," she said. "The OBE was a wonderful thing to happen."

The funeral will take place at 9.15am, on Friday, October 9, at the Church of the Holy Ghost, in Raddenstile Lane.