Hilary Halsey was born in 1924. She was a bright young girl -brought up in a god-fearing family filled with love and laughter.

During the war she became a land army girl and moved to Gloucestershire. She worked on the farm, helping in the fields, mucking out the cows and pigs and generally getting involved in the war effort. It was there that she met her husband and after the war they settled in Cheltenham.

Hilary became an active and well-loved member of the community. She belonged to the WI, to the local church, was a member of the amateur theatrical group and was trained in operatic singing. Hilary had a beautiful voice and up until recent years she could be heard singing her heart out in the church. Even during lockdown, she sang through Sunday zoom services.

Hilary has always blessed those around her with positivity and good humour. She had no children of her own but all children loved her. She nursed her husband through Alzheimer’s… not an easy few year… but she remained kind, cheery and dedicated to his needs.

Each year at the village fetes, Hilary would don her land army uniform and set up a remarkable display of the original clothing… even down to a brand-new pair of socks that she had never opened! She showed us her ration books, her old bicycle she used during the war-times and she gave talks about what it was like and how she lived. During the lockdown, we shopped for Hilary and called in each day to ensure she was safe and well.

She always shared her thoughts and enjoyed a little banter. When the COVID support “Bless You!” group was established in our community, Hilary became an active participant.

She was wonderfully modern in outlook and, when we had a wine-tasting session… she joined in; when we had an outdoor cinema evening… she was there sitting in the street. We wrapped her up in blankets on completing the last lap of the marathon.

On her 94th birthday all the neighbours secretly got together and walked up to her bungalow (socially distancing). There we serenaded her and left gifts in her garden.

On VE day she dressed up in her land army outfit. We organised a jeep and no-one could stop her climbing in! I interviewed her for the local radio station and also nominated her for local hero.

Her piece de resistance was when we held a marathon event in our street. We each did laps of the road and made money for charity. Hilary was not to be left out. Indeed no… she was chosen to complete the last laps of the marathon… Zimmer-frame at the ready.

And now… Well, after a life of dedicating herself to others and coming through the war and more recently COVID and the lockdown period where she participated in the many events, poor Hilary took a fall and was hospitalised with a broken hip. She was then transferred to a nursing hope where, alas her memory has deteriorated.

We still visit and send cards but I just wish they knew what an exceptional person they have in their midst.

Hilary is now 96 years old but to me she will always be 96 years young! I hope I am half as delightful a person as Hilary if I reach my 90’s. She is inspirational and my hero.

A tribute by Dee Russell-Thomas