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Kesgrave man's lifetime of dedication

PUBLISHED: 07:40 09 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:37 03 March 2010

NEARLY 50 years ago Ken Wilding went to a meeting of the Royal British Legion - and walked away again as chairman of the Kesgrave Branch.

Since then he has spent a lifetime dedicated to serving the Legion taking on more and more jobs along the way.

NEARLY 50 years ago Ken Wilding went to a meeting of the Royal British Legion – and walked away again as chairman of the Kesgrave Branch.

Since then he has spent a lifetime dedicated to serving the Legion taking on more and more jobs along the way.

For 40 years, Ken from Deben Avenue, has also been both secretary and treasurer of the I-Group of the Legion, who meet at various locations across the county.

But now, at the age of 85, the Martlesham man has decided it is time to hand on some of his responsibilities and has retired from his post.

At a special ceremony held at the I-Group AGM in Felixstowe his efforts over the past 40 years were rewarded with a huge thank you – and a microwave oven as a present.

However, grandfather of four, Ken is determined to still be a familiar face at the meetings and is continuing as chairman of the Kesgrave Branch.

He said: "I have been dedicated to the Legion ever since I joined in 1953.

"It has been my life and it will be until I pass away."

His main reason for relinquishing his responsibilities, he said, is because the group meets in Kesgrave, Hadleigh, Bramford and Felixstowe and he can no longer get around the way he used to.

Ken has good reason for wanting to support the Legion after serving for six years in the Second World War.

He was part of the Medical Corps with the 46 Division and witnessed the heavy losses suffered by the troops, as they fought battles across North Africa and Italy.

He said: "That was life – if you survived you came home."

Ken, who was born and bred in Woodbridge, did survive and came back to the county where he had lived all his life, returning as chief housing assistant at Deben Rural District Council (later to become Suffolk Coastal).

It was his experience as a surveyor that prompted his invitation to join the Kesgrave British Legion as they needed his help to build a new hall – which they are still using 48 years later.

Ken chuckles at his consistency and staying power, which has seen him remaining in jobs for decades at a time.

As well as being chairman of Kesgrave and treasurer and secretary of the I-Group, Ken has also been the president of the county committee for 16 years.

His work does not stop there however and he is also co-ordinator for the East Suffolk Poppy Appeal.

He said: "I must be a glutton for punishment.

"My wife used to say I suffered from 'meetingitis' because I was always involved in so many things."

Ken was married to Wendy for 59 years and the couple had two children, David and Daphne.

Sadly Wendy died just three days before their diamond wedding anniversary.

Now the Legion is everything in his life and he is proud to say that the Suffolk branch is one of the best in the country.

As regular winners of the National cup the region has proved itself to be the best when it comes to the amount of Legion members and the welfare work that is carried out.

Although Ken said he has seen lots of changes in the last 50 years there is one thing that has remained the same.

He said: "Suffolk is a dedicated county and does well in whatever field you look at."

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