‘She was like a mother to hundreds’ – tributes to polio campaigner

Polio Group members (clockwise, from bottom left) Nigel Lee, Shirley Williams and Pat Wyper take a walk down Memory Lane as they go over the records in the membership book and chat about old friends.

Polio Group members (clockwise, from bottom left) Nigel Lee, Shirley Williams and Pat Wyper take a walk down Memory Lane as they go over the records in the membership book and chat about old friends.

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a woman who devoted her life to tirelessly campaigning for equality for polio sufferers.

Pat Wyper, founder of the Sunderland branch of the British Polio Fellowship, was today described as special, a woman with a big heart and love and compassion for others.

Last month, the 81-year-old lost her brave battle with cancer but has left a lasting legacy through her work with the fellowship.

Shirley Williams, the group’s welfare officer, said: “Pat had endless willpower and determination to succeed, not only in her own life but to ensure others succeeded and overcame their disabilities too.

“She selflessly worked very hard for polio sufferers and was like a mother to hundreds over the years.”

Pat, of Grindon, lived with polio practically all her life, having contracted the virus at 18 months old during the 1932 epidemic.

Her determination to overcome the effects led to solicitors Richard Reed and Cyril Barker approaching her in 1954 to set up the first Wearside branch of the Fellowship.

Despite only being in her early 20s, Pat took up the challenge and changed countless lives through her work to raise awareness of the condition.

One of her earliest battles involved being able to take children in the group swimming.

Pool bosses feared the virus would spread and refused them entry.

In 2009, Pat told the Echo: “They thought they would have to empty the pool every time we had used it. There was a lot of ignorance about the condition back then.”

But the campaigner’s determination won the battle and the group went from strength to strength.

Nigel Lee was one to benefit from Pat’s support. He said: “She helped give me a much wider outlook on life.

“For all we were disabled, the people in our group were actually a cross-section of society and for the most part we just wanted to enjoy life.”

The fellowship continues to meet twice a week at Pennywell Community Centre.

Shirley added: “She will never be forgotten for all the support and care she gave. We owe her a lot.”

Pat’s funeral was held at Sunderland Crematorium on Friday, June 29 and was billed as a celebration of her life.

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