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News - Branch Chair Awarded M.B.E.

It all started with some chance remark Sylvia Mathewson made at a Hearing Dog committee meeting. Liz gave a report of the various speaking engagements she had attended in recent months and, what with dog shows, village fairs etc. she had obviously been really busy. Sylvia, by way of expressing her admiration for Liz's efforts, said "I think she deserves a medal". After the meeting I started thinking, "That's not a bad idea!" and set to work recalling the 45 years we have been the greatest of friends.

It all started in 1960 in response to my request as leader of a Scout Group to the local Guide Captain to find amongst her girls a volunteer to help out with my Cub Pack. Along came an energetic 16 year old with a big smile, long dark hair and boundless enthusiasm. In the fullness of time she became a trained assistant , then Cub Scout Leader, Assistant District Commissioner and eventually, Assistant County Commissioner (I do like to see my friends get on!). Whilst running successfully a very large Cub Scout Pack, she managed to find time to become a teacher, eventually was appointed to the post of Head of Physics at the City of London School for Girls. Whilst at 'The City' she involved herself in many charitable and worthwhile activities. She was team supporter in a cross Channel relay swim, instructed life saving classes, took school parties skiing abroad and administered the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, for which she was awarded a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Service by the Duke of Edinburgh. The Royal Humane Society presented her with a medal for her rescue of a drowning swimmer off the Isle of Wight, and she was given the Freedom of the City of London for her work in the City for both charity and young people.

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Charity and caring for others have been the guiding aim of Liz's life. Charity is not like a bone you throw to a dog but a bone that you share with the dog. It is not enough to help the feeble up: they need support afterwards, and this axiom has been followed throughout Liz's life.

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She became guardian to a severely disabled young nephew, she cared for elderly cousins who lived on the other side of London, eventually bringing them when in their 90's to live in a nursing home in Bricket Wood. Her parents died within five months of each other and, from that time, she became an honorary member of the Alvarez clan, as she has no relations in the UK.

As long as I have known Liz she has been a 'get up and go' person, that is until she became deaf. What a change in a person! She eventually had to give up her job and quickly became morose and withdrawn. This, for such a person, was dramatic: she was at a loss: idleness and isolation were foreign to her nature and she could not enjoy life with nothing to do. This all changed in AD1996 (AD stands for 'After Dog'): that is when Ruffles came into her life. In no time she once again had a purpose in life. Ruffles is more than an Assistance Dog. He is her friend, companion, responsibility and critic and she usually regards him as a human, rarely as merely a dog. It is a case of one soul inhabiting two bodies.

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She soon regained her vigour and founded the Hertfordshire Branch of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and, by example, encouraged the Branch members to make supreme efforts on behalf of the Charity. The Branch has been running for seven years and raises on average 25,000 a year for Hearing Dogs.

Liz helps people in many ways. Her slogan could be 'People Matter' and my family is fortunate to have such a good friend. There is a biblical saying that 'God loves a cheerful giver' (Corinthians ll). I am sure that all who know Liz love and respect her as well.

Perhaps I have 'gone on' a bit so I will end my offering by saying how wise I think the Queen's advisers were to award Liz the M.B.E. and how lucky we all are who know her. I feel sure that you will all want to associate with me in sending her my warmest congratulations.


Don Alvarez


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