BUSINESSMEN, civil servants, a dedicated foster mum and even a big-hearted postie are among the Wearsiders acknowledged in the Queen’s Birthday Honours today.
Sixty-six-year-old Marion O’Leary has devoted herself to providing permanent and temporary foster care and respite care for dozens of children with mental, emotional and physical disabilities and their families for 14 years.
Now her hard work has been rewarded with news she has been awarded an MBE for services to children and families.
Marion, of Town End Farm, first looked into the idea of becoming a foster carer after the birth of her third grandchild.
“He had a few medical problems when he was first born and for the first three months of his life, my daughter had to virtually live at the hospital, so she needed someone to look after her other two children,” she said.
“I was there to help but it made me think, what would people do if they didn’t have that family support?
“Soon after I saw a story in the Echo appealing for short-term foster carers and I decided to look into it and that’s how it all started really.”
The modest grandma added: “Providing short-term care for a disabled child can be challenging, but the rewards are enormous. You get so much love in return.”
Two of the Wearside business community’s best-known faces are also honoured today.
Leighton group founder and former One NorthEast chairman Paul Callaghan is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to the North East, while Northumbrian Water’s Director of Corporate Affairs John Mowbray receives the OBE for services to the water industry and to charity.
Paul said: “I feel extremely proud to have received this award. It is honour for me personally but I think it is also a recognition of the achievements of the many people working in the various organisations with which I am involved.
“I hope it reflects the hard work and commitment that these organisations have shown in furthering the economic, educational, cultural and social well-being of the North East.”
John Mowbray was particularly pleased to be honoured for his work with charity WaterAid: “It was a lovely surprise to receive the letter telling me about the honour. I hadn’t expected it and it left me speechless for a change,” he said.
“Although the award is to me, I think it recognises the great support I have had from groups of people supporting me to make things happen and there are many of them in Northumbrian Water and beyond. I have also had great support from various leaders at the company.
“Supporting communities is particularly important both here and overseas and WaterAid is close to my and the company’s heart.”
Also honoured for his charity work is Chester-le-Street postman Brian Milner, 36, who receives a British Empire Medal for services to Royal Mail and his work with The Gateway Wheelers, a charity which provides cycling opportunities for the disabled.
Brian and colleague David Patterson set up the charity to help David’s son Kevin and Brian has continued the work since David’s death.
“We had just one bike when we started and now we have got 50 or 60 bikes spread around the North East,” said Brian, who added he was ‘very proud’ to have received the award.
Two Wearside civil servants become MBEs today. Linda Lewis works at HM Revenue and Customs offices in Washington, while Judith Hall is employed by the Department of Work and Pensions in Durham.