FAMILY, friends and close colleagues have paid moving tribute to a pillar of Horsham’s tight-knit community and an ‘In Bloom’ stalwart credited with having a huge impact on the local environment.
Anne Bellringer, 66, of Rusper Road near Littlehaven, died at St Catherine’s Hospice, Crawley, last week after a brave four-and-a-half-year battle with breast cancer.
She had risen to the influential position of chair of Horsham In Bloom in 2006 and had been part of the town’s international bid for Nations in Bloom in China back in 2001.
The Blackburn-born former senior manager in the probation service proved to be the driving force behind a new nature centre due to open in Horsham Park on June 18.
Anne’s husband Paul Bellringer OBE paid an emotional tribute to his wife of 13 years. He said: “We are all very sad that she died before the opening of the Human Nature Centre. She would have loved the occasion and the fact that she was instrumental in bringing another attractive niche in to the town.
“She felt that it was a wonderful addition to what already is a fantastic park. It would have been a very proud day.”
“We had a very good relationship, but of course when you live with someone who is fighting cancer as Anne did, there are times when you become a carer, but as soon as she stepped out of that front door, remarkably, she was always able to present herself as her usual outgoing and dignified self. It takes huge strength of character, which she certainly had.
“Anne’s 91-year-old mother who still lives in the town, Lois Bailey, is obviously very upset at Anne’s passing, no-one expects to outlive their children.”
Close colleague Christine Costin, former head of Horsham in Bloom, said: “Her illness was a tragic intervention but she was so brave and determined to beat it.”
Christine added: “When Anne joined the Horsham in Bloom team she quickly became familiar with all the positive things that ‘in Bloom’ brings to the local environment, she was keen to see that Horsham made the most out of everything from flowers to landscaping, from conservation to community initiatives.
“Anne loved flowers and loved the town so she set her sights on helping to make Horsham town a better place for everyone.
Soon after Anne took her place on the committee Horsham reached the final of Nations in Bloom. In December 2001 a delegation from Horsham had the honour of going to Shenzhen in China to put forward the town’s entry.
Anne accompanied Evan Giles, of Horsham District Council, and Christine Costin to make a full presentation to the judges. Christine said: “Her knowledge and personality helped us to make a winning impression.”
Horsham’s bid team flew home with the international award for Best Landscaping and took second place in its population category.
Anne later became vice chair of the Horsham in Bloom committee where colleagues say she played “an ever increasing role in the many successes” that were achieved by Horsham in Bloom.
Christine said: “For me it was a privilege to work with Anne, she gave me encouragement and huge support whilst I was chairman, this helped the team in preparing the way towards Horsham eventually winning Britain in Bloom in 2007.
“Anne was more than a ‘work’ colleague; she was a friend with whom I shared many happy times, someone always ready to enjoy a laugh and always willing to listen.
“The cruel illness that Anne suffered was to make her life very difficult for a long time but over the years those who knew her admired the grace and fortitude with which she sought to overcome it. She was always dignified, helpful and elegant; a beautiful lady able to rise to any occasion.”
David Holmes, (LDem, Horsham Park), said: ““For my wife, Jill, and me the Human Nature Garden to be opened in Horsham Park on June 18 will be a permanent reminder of a good friend who put a huge amount of effort into making Horsham Town a more beautiful place throughout the summer months.
“Much that Horsham in Bloom achieved would not have been possible without the energy and effectiveness with which she went about raising funds from local businesses.
“Tens of thousands of pounds were raised including the enthusiastic ongoing support of Novartis.
“That apart, Anne was an inspirational person. Despite being diagnosed with cancer four-and-a-half years ago most people would not have known that she was having regular treatment and fighting the disease; she never complained.”
Sue Brundish, acting chair of Horsham in Bloom, told the County Times: “We are all profoundly sad that our chair Anne Bellringer has finally lost her long and valiant fight against cancer.
“Anne was a true ambassador for Horsham in Bloom, first as vice chair and most recently as chair where she led us from the front with vision, professionalism and sureness of touch to propel the organisation forward. During this time she played a leading role in many projects all around Horsham, some of which led to recognition at regional, national and indeed International level.’
Evan Giles, parks services manager for Horsham District Council worked alongside Anne for many years. He said: ‘Anne’s determination to continue leading valued environmental initiatives in our community despite her illness and intrusive treatments has been an inspiration. Despite significant health challenges, she was single minded in achieving her aims.
“Anne felt Horsham in Bloom achieved its most effective results when able to work in partnership with others. This was never better demonstrated than in her tireless work for the Human Nature Garden.
“Anne both initiated the process and secured the funds through Novartis and the National Lottery.
“Her key role and achievement will be demonstrated by this wonderful new public space which is shortly to open in two weeks’ time in Horsham Park.”