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Celebrating the life of Ethel, a long-time volunteer at Scope St Albans

Clair Marshall, Shop Manager at Scope St. Albans, shares her wonderful memories of the late and very great volunteer, Ethel Davey

Ethel Davey joined the Scope team at St Albans when the shop first opened on October 1 1996. She would volunteer for a few hours a week, offering customer service on the shop floor. During her time with Scope Ethel had seen many faces (both volunteers and staff) come and go.

I joined Scope as Shop manager in 2016, and this where I had the privilege of meeting Ethel, who was one of the few remaining volunteers who continued to give their time to the charity.

It was clear from the start that Ethel was loyal, hard-working, and a big-hearted person. I was totally amazed that she was 98 years old and sitting at my till on the busiest day of week, working the till and talking to customers with her infectious enthusiasm. I had never met someone with such vitality before.

I could see that she was well loved by the volunteers, customers and community for her cheerful kindness and interest in people. However, Ethel was not a woman who suffered fools gladly, with a no-nonsense attitude towards both life and customers.

A joy for life

Ethel always gave her best, with a joy for life that inspired me, determined to live life wherever it took her. When her daily routine took her near Scope, she would always pop in for a cuppa and a chat, with astute commentary on the people and things she met. She refused to let anything stand in her way, from stubborn customers to bad weather to a worldwide pandemic.

During the first snowfall, when I wasn’t expecting any volunteers, I was surprised and grateful when Ethel appeared, shopping trolley in tow.

Even after Ethel ‘retired’ from Scope, she was still interested in shop happenings and the shop’s social life (when she wasn’t regaling us with her own busy social life.) She would always remember team members’ children and important life events, with genuine heartfelt sincerity.

I will always remember Ethel announcing that she’d been invited to a Mad Hatters themed party, and she’d decided to go as the Mad Hatter. She asked if the shop had any hats, for the costume, and was absolutely delighted when my friend loaned her his hat! She asked if we could take a photo of the hat, to show my friend.

She preferred to let other till users handle any card transactions, ringing the bell and announcing ‘card!’ to get someone to help her, which turned into a long-standing shop joke.  She would always tease me, gently and kindly, about my hearing issues (I am partially deaf), because by that point, her hearing was also not as sharp as it used to be. She’d joke that we were two peas in a pod.

An unforgettable character

Ethel was always grateful for her longevity, but never took it for granted, finding the positive in everything and able to laugh at herself, others, and life itself. We surprised her with a cake and party for her 100th birthday, and when we announced her special birthday, colleagues from other Scope shops across the country sent her birthday cards. She was so happy and overwhelmed by the best wishes from people she’d never met. I’m not sure she realised how many people she touched and how highly she was regarded.

Ethel told the Daily Express, just before her 100th birthday, that the secret of a long life is: “Getting out there and meeting people. Keep working, keep meeting people and keep making friends.”

She certainly did that.

To me, Ethel embodied Scope, both the St Albans shop and the goals of the charity. She was an unforgettable character, who will be dearly missed by shop team, friends, and customers. I’m not sure she realised how many people she touched and how highly she was regarded.

We were devastated to hear that Ethel passed away on January 31 2022, at 104 years young, but celebrate her achievements and legacy.

As Ethel would say “I’ll be seeing ya”.

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