Stevenage community stalwart Jean Archer wowed with 90th birthday surprise

PUBLISHED: 11:56 15 September 2018

Jean Archer with pupils from Woolenwick Infant and Nursery School. Picture: Christina Anderson.

Jean Archer with pupils from Woolenwick Infant and Nursery School. Picture: Christina Anderson.

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A community stalwart was bowled over by an extra special surprise to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Jean Archer was bowled over with 90th birthday surprise. Picture: Christina Anderson.Jean Archer was bowled over with 90th birthday surprise. Picture: Christina Anderson.

Jean Archer has volunteered her time to play the piano at weekly assemblies and special events at Woolenwick Infant and Nursery School in Stevenage for more than 20 years.

She grew up in Walkern and became the village organist at the age of 18. After moving to Stevenage, she played several sessions at Holy Trinity Church in the Old Town, covering the regular organist’s absences.

Jean has been a member of the choir at Holy Trinity Church, off the town’s High Street, for almost 50 years. She is an active member of the community.

Last Thursday she celebrated her 90th birthday and, the previous day, was overwhelmed by a special suprise at Woolenwick.

Jean Archer with pupils from Woolenwick Infant and Nursery School. Picture: Christina Anderson.Jean Archer with pupils from Woolenwick Infant and Nursery School. Picture: Christina Anderson.

Christina Anderson, inclusion leader at the Bridge Road West school, said: “Jean arrived for what she thought was her usual stint on the piano for a singing assembly, to find that she was the star of a birthday celebration assembly, marking her 90th birthday.”

The children talked through a Powerpoint presentation, focusing on life in 1928 – the year when Jean was born – and then on key events throughout the decades.

Pupils also looked at what things happened when Jean was their age, such as American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic when Jean was four years old.

The children also sang songs and listened to music by Louis Armstrong, and told Jean all the reasons why they think she is a superstar.

Jean was presented with flowers, cards, a special cake and a voucher for afternoon tea at the Hotel Cromwell in Stevenage Old Town.

Four-year-old pupil Sid had painted a portrait of Jean’s, which was presented to her in a frame.

Jean said: “I didn’t think anyone knew that it was my birthday!”

Christina said: “Jean’s friends came along too as a surprise - Anne Price, lay minister at the Holy Trinity Church, and local historian Margaret Ashby.

“All of this was a big surprise for Jean.

“She really is a wonderfully, selfless person and a joy to know.”

Asked the secret to a long and happy life, Jean said: “Keep smiling!”

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