Sidbury’s ‘tireless’ RBL secretary remembered

Valerie Hull Valerie Hull

Saturday, May 10, 2014
12:00 PM

Veterans, friends and family paid tribute to a ‘tireless and irreplaceable’ Sidbury resident as they looked back at her life last week.

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Valerie Hull was the Sidford and Sidbury branch secretary of the Royal British Legion (RBL) into her later years, but she touched many lives before that.

With her husband Desmond she played host to the likes of the Red Arrows in their Orchardside restaurant, as well as a young James Last, who would go on to lead a world-famous orchestra.

But Valerie was ‘never one to sit still’, and she retired to become school governors secretary, a National Trust volunteer, a member of the conservative club and a keen painter.

Named after Valentine’s Day, she gained a reputation as a loving, overwhelmingly generous lady, with an energy that led her daughter Claire to nickname her ‘the Duracell battery’.

“Mum was always extremely hospitable, always involved in everything and so energetic,” said Claire. “Her going was totally unexpected, but she did everything at a fast pace. I would tell her to slow down but it just wasn’t in her makeup.”

Born and raised in Sidbury, Valerie passed her 11-plus to get into The King’s School before working as a personal assistant in London.

Valerie and Desmond built Orchardside as a guest house in 1961 before opening it as a restaurant in the seventies, where they were known for their home-cooked food.

They retired from Orchardside in 1987, moving to Exeter.

Desmond died in 1999, but Valerie continued in her usual busy way, and moved to Sidmouth’s Manor Road in 2006.

Speaking at her funeral at St Giles’ Church last Wednesday, Sir John Cave, the RBL Sidford and Sidbury branch president, said: “For these last six years she quite frankly ran the whole branch and we, officers and committee, fell in, and did as we were asked to enable the secretary to do so much more than was expected of just one individual.

“Valerie worked so hard for the branch and it is testament to her today that this church is so full, and particularly with British Legion members.

“Her roles will never be fulfilled by anyone else on their own; we will all miss her.’’

Valerie died on April 12 at the age of 81.

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