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Mary's legacy of love lives on.

Byline: By Dave Black

A North woman whose lifetime's dedication to caring for sick and injured animals brought her royal recognition has died at 98.

Mary Weightman, of Rothesay Terrace, Bedlington, Northumberland, was awarded the MBE in 1998 for services to animal welfare and was presented with her medal by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

A lifelong animal lover who joined the RSPCA as a young woman, Mrs Weightman and a friend Charles Beaumont established the People's Animal Welfare Service (Paws) and raised the money to open a clinic in Millbank Road, Bedlington, in 1954.

Paws was set up to provide care for injured and sick pets whose owners could not afford vets' fees.

The clinic opened twice a week and two local practices sent vets to staff it, with pet owners asked to pay whatever they could afford for treatment.

People from as far afield as Durham and Hexham brought their animals to the clinic, which was kept going by the dedication of Mrs Weightman and her band of loyal helpers.

In 1995 Mrs Weightman, a pianist whose teacher husband Bill died some years ago, was given an Esther Rantzen Hearts of Gold award and was featured on TV. A year later, she won a citizen of the year award from Wansbeck Council and in 1997, at the age of 90, she was named the North-East's most active pensioner, in the McCarthy and Stone retirement awards.

Her proudest moment came in 1998 when she learned that her devotion to helping thousands of pets had been recognised with an MBE. As well as her work with animals, Mrs Weightman helped out with over-60s' clubs, the meals on wheels service and other charities. She handed over the daily running of the Paws clinic shortly after her 92nd birthday, but continued to be actively involved right up to her death in hospital last week.

Sheila Johnstone, 59, of Bedlington, who now runs the clinic, said: "Mary was simply an inspirational lady who was positive and forward-looking right to the end. She was at the clinic just over a week ago talking to people and fussing over the animals.

"She was very relieved that the Paws service would be kept going after she passed away. It will certainly continue because we will not allow her legacy to die.

"We still open every Wednesday, when a vet comes along to look after the pets of people on benefits or low incomes. Mary gave us the reason to go on and one of her favourite sayings was that no animal should suffer for the lack of a few pennies.

"She asked me to take over a few years ago, but she never really gave up and was still the figurehead of Paws."

A service and cremation will be held at Cowpen, Blyth, on Friday at 3pm.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 28, 2005
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