Donkeys beside Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary founder at farewell

Farewell morning for Dr Elisabeth Svendsen for supporters to say goodbyes

THE founder of Sidmouth’s International Donkey Sanctuary will lie in state on the day of her funeral to enable the charity’s many supporters to say their goodbyes.

Following her death last Wednesday, the family of Dr Elisabeth Svendsen have organised a Farewell Morning from 9.30am to 1.30pm on Thursday, May 26, before a private funeral at Ottery St Mary.

Granddaughter Dawn Vincent, the sanctuary’s communications manager, said: “We will bring her here and her coffin will be placed in New Barn with the donkeys to allow time for staff and anyone who wants to, to say goodbye. There will then be a private family and dear friends only service.”

Floral tributes can be left and any donations made on the day will go to the new Elisabeth Svendsen Trust centre in Belfast.

This week Dr Svendsen’s oldest and closest friend, June Evers, who has shared a home with her for 30 years, spoke of her devotion to the charity and the animals she rescued.

“She was incredible. A very warm and loving person with a very intelligent brain,” she said. “She always looked for the good in people.

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“I went on invitations abroad with officials and there was this unassuming, smiling little lady. People were often quite patronising, then she came out with killer remarks and questions.

“She liked the meek and innocent and had terrific business sense. She had such a business head she was prepared to take a risk, a bit of a challenge, and it worked.”

June, 80, first met Betty on their first day at Kindergarten aged five, 76 years ago.

They remained close friends during their school years and kept in touch when Dr S trained as a teacher and June as a radiographer.

June moved to Exeter Hospital and when Dr S opened the Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth, their friendship was rekindled, with June becoming a trustee of the charity.

“That was in 1975. After that we never lost touch at all and when the families dispersed we lived together.

“I used to have unpaid leave from the hospital and go abroad with her, and when I left the hospital 25 years ago I did full-time work overseas (for Dr S) until I retired in 2005.”