Last surviving Slough Mencap founder dies aged 104

Betty Hopkins worked with the charity for 69 years and attended every event.

The last surviving founding member of Slough Mencap has died at the age of 104 years old – having worked with the charity for 69 years.

Betty Hopkins was a resident at Courtlands Avenue in Langley for 80 years, since 1939.

Her son Stephen sustained injuries during a forceps delivery when he was born. While Stephen was growing up, their neighbours ‘crossed the street’ to avoid him.

Betty befriended mothers whose babies were born with Down’s syndrome and started Slough Mencap alongside five other founding members in 1952.

It was one of the first local Mencaps to be set up after the national one was founded in 1946.

The founders of Slough Mencap each put in about five pounds – a week’s wages, in those days – to support the rights of a few disabled children.

The first residential home Betty helped establish for people with learning disabilities was situated in the middle of a field because it was not thought suitable for them to be in ‘normal’ streets.

In the first two decades of Slough Mencap’s life, they developed a friendly club, a school with a swimming pool, a residential home for adults, a summer play school, playgroups and citizens' advocacy, along with employment services.

Next year Slough Mencap will be celebrating its 70th anniversary and has supported hundreds of people with disabilities and their families.

Chief executive of Slough Mencap Eleanor Cryer was a lifelong friend of Betty’s and has herself been involved with Mencap for 42 years, since 1978.

“She always showed a great interest in it even though she has been involved since 1952 – she gave as a very, very generous donation of £10,000 ten years ago for our diamond anniversary,” said Eleanor.

Betty attended ‘absolutely every function’ that Slough Mencap put on up until four years ago, aged 100, when she moved into a care home.

“She always asked about people who she knew as children, she was always interested in them and their families. She kept a keen interest right up until the end,” said Eleanor.

“When Slough Mencap was first started, people with learning disabilities were just seen as ‘retarded’ – Betty has watched us change that 100 per cent.

“I think that people like Betty Hopkins were the bravest people in the world. They made it possible for people with learning disabilities to be recognised as local citizens. Betty was so proud of that.

“She’s touched the lives of so many people in the borough.”

Those who wish to make a donation in memory of Betty Hopkins are encouraged to send it to Slough Mencap, Horsemoor Green Community Centre, Common Rd, Langley SL3 8JU.