Jo scoops award after 34 years of service to Cancer Research UK
- Credit: Cancer Research UK
A dedicated volunteer has been recognised for a national award following 34 years of service.
Jo Baldry, 74, who lives in Trimley St Mary started volunteering for Cancer Research UK after losing her first husband, Jerry Downes, to a brain tumour.
She has supported the charity's shop in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, ever since it opened in 1987, when it was run by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
"I’ve been there from day one,” she said.
Jo, who is originally from Lowestoft, was named an honorary fellow at the charity's 2021 Flame of Hope Awards in Hertfordshire, hosted by Cancer Research UK chairman Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.
The grandmother of seven said becoming an Honorary Fellow had been a proud moment, adding: “My middle son, Mark, came with me to the awards ceremony. It was quite an emotional day for us both, but lovely to have him there."
Jo moved to Trimley St Mary after marrying her second husband, David.
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She said: “I didn’t know anyone in Felixstowe and was walking through the town one day when I saw a big notice on the shop saying volunteers were needed. The money we got through Jerry’s funeral went to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, so I knew the name and I felt that was something I needed to do.
Jo is the longest serving member and volunteer at the shop.
“The changes have been phenomenal,” she said, “I really enjoy serving and being with customers on the shop floor, making them feel welcome. I’ve made lots of friends with other volunteers and even customers.
Jo received her award 37 years after Jerry died.
She said: “The first sign was memory loss, when he phoned somebody at work, but couldn’t remember who he’d been talking to when he finished.
“Jerry gradually experienced more symptoms and it was when he suddenly became unable to stand up one day, I called the GP who came and realised what was possibly wrong.
“I can remember him standing in our kitchen phoning to say Jerry needed a hospital bed. They said they hadn’t got one and he thumped the kitchen table, saying they’d got to find a bed because he had a 36-year-old man with a suspected brain tumour. It sends shivers through me now thinking about it."
Jerry had brain surgery, followed by radiotherapy, chemotherapy and some injections then being trialled. He died in November 1984.
Jo had met Jerry whilst working for Eastern Coach Works in Lowestoft. They lived in Oulton Broad and were married for 16 years, with three sons, Steve, Mark and Paul, who were 13, 11 and six when Jerry died.
“I remember feeling absolutely devastated,” Jo said. “It couldn’t be happening because he was such a loving, caring husband.
"You’ve got so many plans at that age and it doesn’t enter your head something like that might happen out of the blue as he was so fit and healthy.”
The 2021 Flame of Hope awards have been held at six locations across the UK.
Michael Jarvis, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Suffolk, said: “It’s thanks to the support of the fundraising public and our amazing army of volunteers, like Jo, that we can continue to make a real difference, and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”