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The Queen sends special birthday message to Newmarket's Avril Cooper as she celebrates her centenary

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Avril Cooper celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this month, surrounded by her family, and with a special birthday message from the Queen.

The centenarian has lived in Newmarket since 1945, first in King Edward Road, then at Freshfields when it was a new estate, before moving to New Cheveley Road and finally to Scaltback Close before, in December last year, she became a resident of the Kingfisher care home in St Fabian’s Close.

Born in Dorset, Avril attended Gillingham Grammar School. She always dreamed of becoming a nurse but the outbreak of war put pay to her ambitions and she joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), the women’s branch of the British Army becoming a radar operator.

Avril Cooper with her sons Alan and Sandy, daughter Julie and granddaugters Natasha and Toni.
Avril Cooper with her sons Alan and Sandy, daughter Julie and granddaugters Natasha and Toni.

Her late husband, Bob, was also in the Army and they married in Dulwich in London in September 1943.

They made their first home in Dorset but Bob’s family were in Newmarket, where his father owned shops in Market Street, and the couple moved to the town in 1945.

While Bob, who had trained as a chiropodist, concentrated on developing his practice in Market Street, Avril looked after the couple’s children their daughter Julie, who now lives in Switzerland, and sons Alan, who was to take over his father’s chiropody practice, and Sandy, formerly a dentist in Exning.

Avril joined the choir at All Saints’ Church and became a member of the Mothers’ Union. She was also a member of the congregation at St Martin’s Church, in Exning, and St Philips and St Etheldreda, the hospital chapel in Exning Road, where, up until her sudden illness in June last year, she had been a regular member of the congregation and still insisted on reading the lesson and doing intercessions when it was her turn.

“Until she was ill she had been living happily at home going about her daily life,” said Julie. “It was hard to believe how old she was as, complete with her walker, she made her way down the High Street doing her shopping.”

A talented needlewoman Avril’s embroidery skills were much sought after by All Saints’ Church when she was a member there and during the 1960s she made several tablecloths with special emblems for schools and the Townswomen’s Guild and also sashes for local beauty competitions.

“She has always been fiercely independent and was still driving her car until she was 95,” said Julie.

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