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Tributes to Newmarket Day Centre’s first manager who laid the foundations of its success

Tributes have been paid following the death of the first manager of Newmarket’s Day Centre who laid the foundations for its success over the past 42 years.

Marion Fairman-Smith, who was 85, died peacefully on Saturday at her home in Exning with her family by her side after a long battle with cancer.

It was in 1981 that she was appointed to run Newmarket’s first day care centre for the elderly which was funded by the George Gibson Almshouses Trust and opened beside the new Barlings Court in Fred Archer Way on April 21, 1981, with queues of people waiting to have a look inside.

Marion Fairman-Smith at the opening of Newmarket Day Centre with Geoffrey Barling, Hugh Day and Simon and George Gibson, whose charitable trust financed the project
Marion Fairman-Smith at the opening of Newmarket Day Centre with Geoffrey Barling, Hugh Day and Simon and George Gibson, whose charitable trust financed the project

Mrs Fairman-Smith’s job title in those days was organiser, but she effectively managed the centre, alongside the trustees, for the next 23 years as it went from opening two days a week, to five days, proving a godsend for elderly people in the community, some of them isolated and lonely, who came to rely on the services it provided.

The current manager, Veronica Fixe, and her predecessor Elvis McMinn, both started work at the centre as young carers when Mrs Fairman-Smith was in charge.

“Marion was a lovely lady. I was very shy and timid in those days but she was always ready to help.

“She was firm but so approachable, knowledgable and fair and her door was always open,” said Mrs Fixe.

“Although things have changed a lot since her time, I believe she set a great foundation and we all still strive to achieve the same goals as we did when she was in charge.”

After her retirement from the day-to-day running of the centre in 2004, Mrs Fairman-Smith remained a trustee for a further fourteen years until she stood down in 2018.

Among other organisations who benefited from her enthusiasm and skills were the Citizens Advice Bureau from 2007 to 2018, the Newmarket Voluntary Network between 2002 and 2003, the Communuity Transport service and the Patient Public Involvement Service at West Suffolk Hospital.

She was also elected in 2007 as a Conservative member of Forest Heath District Council representing Exning until 2010.

Born in Southall, in London, Mrs Fairman-Smith’s first job was in a fashionable dress shop before she signed up with the Women’s Royal Air Force serving mainly at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire where she met her future husband, Coventry-born Derek, an aircraft engineer in the RAF.

The couple married in South Norwood, near Mrs Fairman-Smith’s home in 1957 and she left the WRAF so she could travel with her husband to his postings including to Cyprus, Gibraltar and Malta.

Back in England, Mr Fairman-Smith was de-mobbed in 1969 and the family, by now including their daughter, Vanya, and son Vance, moved to Ashley Road, in Newmarket, when he started work at Marshall’s of Cambridge and later at Redland Pipes, in Stansted, subsequently moving to their home in Burwell Road, Exning.

Mrs Fairman-Smith leaves her husband, daughter, and son, and three grandchildren, Lachlan, Luca and Emmie.

The funeral service will take place at the West Suffolk Crematorium at 2pm on Tuesday, November 7. Family flowers only are requested but donations may be made to Cancer Research UK.