'He was a lovely man and a gentleman' – Tributes paid to Stevenage veteran who was a Poppy Appeal collector for 58 years
PUBLISHED: 12:28 17 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:44 17 November 2016
Sunday’s remembrance parade in Stevenage Old Town wasn’t just a memorial to all those who have died in conflicts around the world – it was also a fitting send-off for the town’s second-longest-serving poppy collector Don Presland, who passed away on Bonfire night.
Don – who served with the British Army in Egypt to complete his National Service in the 1950s – was inspired to begin collecting by the disappearance of his uncle in action during the Second World War.
He collected for the Stevenage Poppy Appeal for a staggering 58 years, raising somewhere in the region of £75,000.
Every year he tirelessly took collection tins to schools around the town, gathered them up again and counted the money, even until last year when he was using oxygen to breathe.
Richard Mott, secretary of the Royal British Legion’s Stevenage branch, told the Comet: “He will be sorely missed by the Poppy Appeal.
“He was amazing – we didn’t expect him to do it last year but he always did it in his own way.
“Fifty years isn’t bad is it? He was so committed.”
Don was awarded the prestigious honorary 55-year bar to add to his RBL uniform medals in 2012.
He collected for the entire Graveley area, as well as schools across Stevenage.
Daughter Julie Manton said of her father: “He was just so committed to everything, he was always so active.
“He did a lot for other people rather than for himself.
“He was just such a lovely man and a gentleman.”
Don once served as standard bearer for the Stevenage branch of the RBL.
He was born in Hitchin but lived most of his life in Graveley, where he became caretaker of the village hall and played for table tennis and dominoes clubs.
He worked for many years as a coach driver for Chambers Coaches and among many other jobs, drove coach-loads full of Crystal Palace and Stevenage FC fans to matches.
Wife Margaret Presland supported him with the Poppy Appeal work and joined him in the dominoes club.
She said: “He just loved the outdoors and loved to travel.
“He was a great family man and took us all out camping. He loved his family and his grandchildren.”
Margaret and Julie said they wish to thank the Lister Hospital and the Garden House Hospice Care’s Hawthorne Centre, where Don received support latterly.
Don and Margaret have four children, eight grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.
Don’s funeral will take place at Harwood Park Crematorium on Thursday, December 1, at 1.15pm. All are welcome.
Donations can be made to Garden House Hospice Care’s Hawthorne Centre and the Poppy Appeal.