Obituary: Community stalwart Doreen, 93, was 'inspirational'

Doreen Johnson singing

Doreen Johnson was said to have passed up the chance to perform on Opportunity Knocks as it would have meant her leaving her husband at home - Credit: Supplied by the family

A "selfless, generous and caring" community stalwart from Cobholm has died at the age of 93.

From caring for her disabled husband, Donald, to chairing the community centre for 30 years, Doreen Thelma Johnson lived a life filled with community spirit and deep family bonds.

Doreen Johnson

Doreen Johnson was said to have approached life always with a spring in her step - Credit: Supplied by the family

Doreen was born to Violet Jackman on April 19, 1929.

She spent her early childhood on Row 25 in Great Yarmouth before moving to Gorleston at the age of eight.

Raised by her grandmother, Maud Georgina Jackman, Doreen worked hard from a young age.

Her first job was being a laundry delivery girl on behalf of her grandmother before having stints at the slipper factory on Priory Street and Purdy's Bakery on North Quay.

Before the Second World War, Doreen courted Donald Albert 'Donny' Johnson. 

However, the couple lost contact after Donny was enlisted in the British Army where he served in the Norfolk Regiment.

Donald and Doreen Johnson celebrating their diamond anniversary in 2007.

Donald and Doreen Johnson celebrating their diamond anniversary in 2007 - Credit: Supplied by the family

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During the war Doreen worked in the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) on Bells Road.

It was there she heard the tragic news of Donny being seriously injured in an explosion in France on one of the last days of the war.

Donny had been helping transport an anti-tank gun to Wismar, Germany when an explosion occurred.

He was rushed to a field hospital where both his hands were amputated.

On Donny's return, he and Doreen had a chance meeting and they resumed their relationship before marrying in 1947.

The Johnsons started a family and had two sons, Glenn, born in 1947, and Carl, born in 1952.

Doreen became a full-time carer for her husband and devoted her life to him until he died in 2011. They celebrated their diamond anniversary in 2007.

A dedicated family woman, "always with a spring in her step", Doreen had six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

During her life Doreen became a fundraiser for many causes including Guide Dogs for the Blind, the British Heart Foundation and Blesma, the military charity for limbless veterans.

She also supported many Norfolk causes including the East Coast Truckers Convoy, which Glenn had founded.

Doreen Johnson, left, was played a key role at Cobholm Community Centre for 30 years.

Doreen Johnson, left, played a key role at Cobholm Community Centre for 30 years - Credit: Archant

What began as a one-off event in 1986 became a tradition in the town and will celebrate its 35th event in August.

While her son was the event organiser, Doreen helped out and hosted a tea party for the truckers at Cobholm Community Centre for the convoy's first 11 years.

Doreen stood down in 2010. She said at the time: "It’s been wonderful and I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since this started – it barely feels like any time at all.

"I think a lot of people didn’t think it was going to take off, including ourselves, but here we are."

Doreen also raised money for Great Ormond Street Hospital after her granddaughter, Hayley, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1983.

Doreen Johnson was known as an "amazing singer"

Doreen Johnson was known as an amazing singer - Credit: Supplied by the family

Remembered as being an "amazing singer", Doreen passed auditions for Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks and was invited to the show in London.

However, she declined as it meant being apart from her husband for a few days.

She often sang with the Gordon Edwards Band and had organised many concerts over the years, including regular weekend events at Cobholm Community Centre where she celebrated her 90th birthday with karaoke.

While not having not taken many holidays in her lifetime, Doreen travelled to Thailand at the age of 88.

It was in Bangkok where she bumped into an unexpected blast from the past - a vintage Great Yarmouth Transport double decker bus which was still listed as an 8A.

First number 8 bus service once used in Great Yarmouth pictured in Bangkok

First number 8 bus service once used in Great Yarmouth pictured in Bangkok - Credit: Archant

Doreen Johnson is reunited with the 8A in Thailand

Doreen Johnson is reunited with the 8A in Thailand - Credit: Glenn Johnson

Doreen Thelma Johnson died peacefully following a short illness on July 3.

Doreen's family described her as a "selfless, generous and caring lady who always looked on the bright side of life".

Hayley Johnson, 44, said of her grandmother: "She was one of the strongest and kindest women I've ever known. She was truly inspirational.

"She always believed in me and was always there for me. I love her and will miss her dearly."

There will be a memorial service for Doreen at Cobholm Community Centre on July 30 at 11am. All who knew her are welcome to attend.