There have been two extremely proud moments in life in recent times for Maurice Chappell.
One was being presented with the MBE by the Lord Lieutenant for Lincolnshire Tony Worth at the Woodlands Hotel in Spalding on Saturday.
However, being surrounded by his extended family for the presentation was just as important to Maurice, who received his award for services to people with learning difficulties.
Among those gathered were Maurice’s wife Vera, who has been by his side throughout all his work, and their daughter Claire.
Maurice, who lives at West Pinchbeck where he ran a plant nursery before retirement, said: “Actually I blamed Claire on Saturday because what started it was she was born down’s of course.”
Claire is 50 this year but when she was born the health service was pretty unhelpful when it came to children with learning difficulties, says Maurice.
When no one could tell them what the problem was Maurice and Vera paid privately to see a paediatrician, but found him unhelpful.
“He basically wrote her off,” says Maurice, “The state provision in those days was pretty well non-existent. You put them into a hospital or kept them at home and didn’t bring them out into the open, and I didn’t want my daughter like that.
“So we set out on our own to find out as much as we could.”
So began a lifetime of finding out as much as possible about Claire’s condition and doing what they could to improve life for her as well as other people with learning difficulties, or special needs.
From making contact with a group of parents of down’s children in Birmingham, Maurice and Vera started doing what they could locally.
They got involved in Mencap, Maurice becoming chairman, a position he still holds today.
Maurice became a governor of both Spalding special schools, the Garth and the Priory, where Claire went. At the Priory School, Maurice ended up being chairman of governors for about 15 years.
He was invited to join Mulberry NHS Trust, which provided services for people with disabilities in south Lincolnshire.
Maurice and Vera also founded the Gateway club along with a couple of others who Maurice says inspired him to do it. The social club holds a variety of activities for people with learning difficulties. Maurice and Vera are still running that and Maurice is still a school governor.
Maurice says: “I have met a lot of people with learning difficulties, and many of them are still my friends.
“It’s been my life’s work, among other things.
“Over the years I actually tried to put something back into everything I am getting something out of. I was involved in the NFU when I was a grower, but this is one where Vera and I have done a lot together.”
The MBE could have been awarded in London, but Maurice chose instead to make it a local event so that the different generations of his family could be present.
He said there were 29 people there for the buffet and presentation, every member of his family except his grandaughter Victoria, who lives in Sydney, Australia.
Before the presentation by Mr Worth, Maurice’s grandson William Sneath (36) spoke about his grandfather’s work throughout the years for people with learning difficulties in south Lincolnshire.