Tributes paid to 'remarkable and talented' globetrotting grandmother

Tributes have been paid to Margaret Smith, from Dereham. 

Tributes have been paid to Margaret Smith, from Dereham. - Credit: Supplied by the family

She had a passion for life which took her from the gardens of Buckingham Palace to the South American mountains.

And now tributes have been paid to Margaret Smith, from Dereham, who died in June after going missing from her care home in Swanton Morley

Her family, sons Harvey and Murray Smith and daughter-in-law Jayne, have spoken about Mrs Smith, who led an active life dedicated to encouraging and helping others. 

Tributes have been to Margaret Smith, from Dereham. 

Tributes have been to Margaret Smith, from Dereham. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Their family statement said: "Margaret was quite remarkable, so talented in many ways."

Mrs Smith was born in Letchworth, Hertfordshire in 1934. She attended Letchworth Grammar School, where she met her future husband, Roy Smith, an evacuee from Southampton during the Second World War. 

Her first job was as a laboratory assistant at the chemical company ICI. This was followed by a position at Services Electronic Research Laboratories, where she was involved in ground breaking research into the effects of very low temperature on electronic resistance. This led to Mrs Smith being required to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Roy and Margaret married in 1955 between his graduation and National Service. His first posting with the RAF brought them to Horsham St Faith, and Mrs Smith worked in the laboratory at Colman's.

Mr Smith later took up a teaching post in Rayleigh, Essex where their first son, Murray, was born in 1960.

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The couple then moved to Dereham where Mr Smith began teaching at Neatherd High School, and their second child, Harvey, was born in 1963.  

Roy and Margaret Smith on a school field trip to How Hill in the 1970s.

Roy and Margaret Smith on a school field trip to How Hill in the 1970s. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mrs Smith had a lifelong interest in Girl Guiding and led many camping trips, sometimes taking the children with her. She attempted to visit the four world centres for Girl Guides and ticked off London, Switzerland and India, but missed the fourth, in Mexico.

She was a member of the Guides' Trefoil Guild and embraced their goal of helping other people.

Mrs Smith was also in the Women's Institute, having joined the Scarning branch in 1970 and serving as a committee member and president for many years. 

Roy and Margaret Smith.

Roy and Margaret Smith. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Through the WI she was able to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace, and searched for ages for a suitable outfit, only for it to be hidden by a raincoat due to bad weather on the day.

Mr Smith went onto become Neatherd's deputy headteacher, whilst Mrs Smith became the school's librarian.

They were both keen members of the RSPB, the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Trust and The Norfolk Wildlife Trust, through which they received an invitation to meet Prince Charles at Sandringham House.

They enjoyed holidays to the USA where Mr Smith had family, plus walking holidays with the Wildlife Trust to Switzerland and Ireland.

Murray married Jayne in 1987 and Margaret and Roy became grandparents to Sally in 1993.

Mrs Smith nursed her husband at home during the last weeks of his life and they made it to their golden wedding in 2005.  

Despite being alone, Mrs Smith continued to enjoy travelling, visiting Australia, New Zealand, India and with her cousin, Marcia, made it to Machu Picchu in Peru.

On the trip, Mrs Smith suffered altitude sickness, and to everyone’s amazement was given cocaine tea to recover. 

She was part of a keep fit group called ABC (After Breast Cancer), which she survived twice, and could often be seen on her bike or leading groups of walkers along Norfolk's rural footpaths.  

Margaret Smith on her 80th birthday.

Margaret Smith on her 80th birthday. - Credit: Supplied by the family

She was also interested in ballet and taught line dancing to the WI. Her family said: "She was still doing high kicks at the age of 87."

Her talents spanned many fields including gardening, flower arranging, crafts and cookery.

"She would often supply ginger flapjacks, fruit cakes and elderflower cordial to charity fundraisers," her family said.

"She enjoyed cross stitch and even designed her own cross stitch samplers, she made cards, knitted and embroidered."

They described Mrs Smith's beadwork as "amazing" - she led many classes in the craft, despite suffering from macular degeneration.

Her family said one of her proudest moments was attending her grand-daughter's graduation in 2016.

They said: "This was made particularly special since Sally had obtained a first class honours degree in forensic science. Margaret was thrilled to have another scientist in the family." 

Margaret Smith at the graduation ceremony for her granddaughter Sally. 

Margaret Smith at the graduation ceremony for her granddaughter Sally. - Credit: Supplied by the family

In her final years Mrs Smith had Alzheimer's and vascular dementia and she moved to Lincoln House Care Home in Swanton Morley.

She went missing on June 13 and her body was found two days later. Her family said they wanted to thank Lowland Search and Rescue, the emergency services and the many volunteers, led by Roger Atterwill and his team, who helped search for her. 

At her funeral on July 23 a collection was made for the local branch of the Alzheimer's Society, which raised £895, based at Newton St Faith. A fundraiser was started on JustGiving for Norfolk and Suffolk Lowland Search, which has so far raised around £1,300.