A war widow from Brighton has been awarded a British Empire Medal to recognise her lifelong commitment to Blind Veterans UK.
Joan Osborne, 91 from Saltdean, was presented with the prestigious award by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for East Sussex at the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton, in front of both family and friends.
“I was shocked to receive such an award. My father was a member of the charity, which used to be called St. Dunstan’s, and I first visited the centre as a toddler. Blind Veterans UK has been my life so I don’t feel like I have done anything special!”
When the charity moved from Brighton to Church Stretton during the Second World War, Joan and her mother moved to the Shropshire town in order to be closer to her father in 1941 who was a braille teacher at the centre.
“I was only 14 and a half and I dropped out of my college course in order to move. I was always in the music department at the centre in the evenings and when I was 16 they offered me a job there – this is where it all began really.”
It was at the centre that Joan met her husband, Bob Osborne who was supported by the charity after losing his sight during the Normandy Invasion that started with D-Day and the pair married in 1948.
“My husband was a blind double amputee who lost both his arm and his leg so he struggled to find a job. When we married, myself and Bob were offered the opportunity to run the kiosk at the Brighton centre which we ran for 22 years.”
As well as running the kiosk, Joan continued with her passion for music and she along with Bob joined two other blind veterans, Ron Smith and Winston Holmes, to form a band called Joan and The Three Blind Mice who performed around Sussex.
Since Bob’s passing in 2011, Joan has continued to be a fantastic support for the charity as she now runs both the bowls club and the charity’s social club.
“I can’t remember a time without Blind Veterans UK.”
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB said:
“Joan has been part of the Blind Veterans UK family her whole life and has supported everything we have done for over 70 years. She continues to demonstrate the values we hold as a charity and we congratulate her on receiving such a well-deserved award.”