MBE for generous charity benefactor

WHEN John Stocker bumped into a friend in his local pub on Saturday and told him he d been made an MBE, he was astonished at his response. Paddy Wood, Chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in Harpenden, said: So have I . The two men

WHEN John Stocker bumped into a friend in his local pub on Saturday and told him he'd been made an MBE, he was astonished at his response.

Paddy Wood, Chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in Harpenden, said: "So have I".

The two men, who both drink in The Elephant and Castle in Amwell, then toasted their awards.

John Stocker, aged 68, who lives in Nomansland, received his award for his services to charity.

A generous benefactor, he has donated £100,000 to Grove House Hospice in St Albans and loaned a further £200,000 to them interest-free.

Mark Lister, chief executive at Grove House, said: "John Stocker has been a staunch supporter of Grove House for four years and helped us to care for many local people. We are most grateful for all he has done both in terms of his most generous financial support and for the expert business guidance he has volunteered.

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"John has been instrumental in launching our new Lottery Partnership which will increase our income by over £70,000 each year. This will have a real impact on our care for local people with cancer or life-threatening illness.

"At the end of this year we will be introducing a new service for the people of St Albans, 24-hour hospice care at home, so increasing our income to fund this service is even more important than ever. His MBE is well deserved recognition for his services to the local community"

As a patron of the arts, he has also given £250,000 to support the international Organ Festival at the Abbey with a further £100,000 towards the upkeep of the Abbey organ.

John, who ran a large construction company before he retired, also supports a number of other local efforts including the football team at the Queens Head in Sandridge.

He said: "I am quite pleased to receive the MBE but more than a little confused."

John is married to Janice and they have two daughters Nikki and Mary and three grandchildren.

He recently bought two racehorses which he keeps at Dean Ivory's racing stables in Radlett.

As a former weapons engineering officer in the Navy, he is also a keen supporter of HMS St Albans, which he helped to commission.

His friend Paddy Wood, aged 70, of Milton Road, Harpenden, began his nautical connection with the RNLI in 1971 when he was involved in a riverboat rescue on the Thames.

He said: "I was aboard my canal boat when I saw a boat get swept onto a weir and myself and another boatman helped get the people to safety. It fuelled my lifelong interest in the RNLI."

A former railway manager, he took early retirement to devote more time to fundraising for the RNLI and is currently chairman of the Harpenden branch.

He said: "I was delighted to see my efforts rewarded in this way. It's a very great honour."

A third man awarded an MBE is also known to Paddy through their shared charitable works.

Peter Risley, aged 76, of Wick Avenue, Wheathampstead,sometimes brings his barrel organ along to RNLI functions to help them raise money. Butt more frequently he is to be seen raising money for diabetes-related charities.

His first son Martin was diagnosed with the disease when he was aged eight and Peter and his wife Jeanette became involved in setting up local branches to help people with the illness.

Sadly, Martin was killed in a motorbike accident when he was just 19. The Risleys have two other children - Timothy and Catherine and five grandchildren.

A former aerospace engineer, Peter bought his barrel organ in 1994 to help raise money at functions. So far it has helped him raise more than £20,000.

* England and Arsenal ladies soccer star Kelly Smith has also been made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to women's football.

Kelly, aged 29, who lives in London Colney, said: "It is an honour and very exciting. I am flabbergasted, to be honest. I think I will be more nervous going to Buckingham Palace than I would be before any football game."

The talented forward returned to Arsenal three years ago after spending eight successful years in the United States. She is an established international and featured at last year's women's World Cup Finals in China.

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