Countless tributes have been paid to community champion and former mayor, Norah Hoyles.
Norah was much-loved in Garstang and its surrounding villages due to her sheer dedication to bettering the community; something that culminated in her being awarded an MBE by the Queen herself at Buckingham Palace in 2008.
The well-known businesswoman and former chairwoman of the Chamber of Trade was the driving force behind Garstang In Bloom for more than two decades and had also held office as the town’s Mayor and as a town councillor.
As well as volunteering, Cockerham-born Norah ran Top Notch hairdressers in Croston Road up until her retirement from the trade in 2007. She was also vital in bringing about the town’s Victorian Christmas Festival in its early years.
Damian Carr, from the festival’s committee, said: “Norah was a regular sight at the festival always in Victorian costume and as well as organising, ran a raffle to raise funds for the Christmas lights.
“She was an invaluable help at the lights switch on and setting up of the crib in the market house. She will be very much missed by us all, such a lovely lady.”
Norah gained a special RHS (Royal Horticultural Award) in 2010 for her “community championing” and it was as the chair of Garstang in Bloom that she ensured Garstang had winning flower power year after year, inspiring volunteers to join her horticultural mission to make the town a centre of floral excellence.
Her successor as Chair of the “Bloomers” vet Alan Pearson said: “It’s a great loss to us. She led the team for 25 years - sometimes almost single handedly. She had retired but still took an active interest and still was the lead on the business competition. She will be sorely missed by everybody. She had taken us to be among the top towns in the country.
"We’d been in the Champion of Champions (in Britain in Bloom) twice and been in international and European competitions. She was a complete stalwart and she will be a very difficult act to follow.”
Norah also led Garstang to success in the North West in Bloom contest on numerous occasions and Brock with Catterall Councillor Peter Murphy said: “I’ve been proud to call Norah a friend for over thirty years. She has inspired generations to become involved in their communities through Britain in Bloom, not just in Garstang and Wyre but in towns and cities across the country.
"I’m sure that the Royal Horticultural Society will be making sure that there is a lasting legacy to her.”
Lady Dulcie Atkins said: “We all wanted to do our best for Norah in the Britain in Bloom competitions. I think she enjoyed being on the Garstang Area Partnership and her Chairmanship(s) of the Town Trust ensured that our historic buildings have survived and make Garstang what it is today. I shall miss her smile and laughter and inspiration.”
The funeral is on Friday, March 2 at 11.30am at St Thomas’s church in Garstang, followed by cremation at Preston crematorium at 1.30pm.
Norah, 70, had been suffering from cancer and her condition worsened some weeks ago. Her husband Henry, also a keen “bloomer”, died in 2011. She leaves children Sharon of Cottam and Stephen of Forton and grandchildren.
Canon Ron Greenall, who will take the service, said: “Her family have expressed great gratitude for all who helped Norah in this time of illness and supported her and for the messages of
support and condolence they have received.”
Canon Ron paid his own tribute, saying the service would be “a great thanksgiving service for her life” and recalled how he had the honour of opening her salon when she “moved” premises from upstairs to downstairs to improve access to the salon.
He said: “I cut the ribbon nearly 25 years ago. She said she wanted me to bless her new salon by cutting the ribbon - and I had to be in full cassock!”
Former deputy editor of the Courier, Anthony Coppin, knew Norah for more than a decade through his role at the paper. Anthony said: “Norah was a dynamo of positive activity – all aimed at promoting Garstang. She never seemed to stop. She was a great motivator, organiser and ambassador.”
Former Courier photographer Steve Pendrill, who covered many of Norah’s civic and community events, said: “The town has lost a dedicated, hard-working, polite and charming lady who was a delight to have known.”