Legion stalwart steps down but will still sell his poppies

Jim Lewendon is handing on the baton as county chairman of the Royal British Legion but will continue to do his bit for the annual Poppy Appeal. Picture: OX69017 Cliff Hide

Jim Lewendon is handing on the baton as county chairman of the Royal British Legion but will continue to do his bit for the annual Poppy Appeal. Picture: OX69017 Cliff Hide Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

AFTER 41 years selling poppies to raise funds for the Royal British Legion in Oxfordshire Jim Lewendon is preparing to bow out as county chairman.

As chairman of the RBL in Oxfordshire, Mr Lewendon, from Girdlestone Road, Headington, has attended as many major military occasions as possible over the past three years and will resign from the role in February.

It is the second time he has held the position of county chairman – his first stint was from 1999 to 2001 – and in between the two periods as chairman he held the role of vice-chairman.

“I’ve been chairman or vice-chairman of the RBL in Oxfordshire for years and I have really enjoyed it but it’s a very demanding role and it’s time a younger man took it over,” said father-of-three Mr Lewendon, who is 85.

“I will still be president of the Oxford City branch, and keep in touch with the Marston branch.”

Mr Lewendon will read The Exhortation at Monday’s Turning the Pages ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

He has read the short verse beginning “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old” so many times that he knows it off by heart.

Mr Lewendon, a great-grandfather, was also present in June at the Clifton Hampden memorial service for D-Day hero Major John Howard, who was one of the first to land on the night of the D-Day landings when he led the glider assault on Pegasus Bridge in the Second World War.

Mr Lewendon added: “The Remembrance Day service at St Giles this year will be my last as chairman. It will be a moving one for me – but it always is.

“I have been selling poppies for the RBL for more than 40 years and I don’t intend to stop now.

“With the First World War commemorations it has been a very busy time for me.”

Mr Lewendon was a founder member of the group of veterans who gather in Headley Way, Headington, to pay their respects to fallen servicemen and women repatriated from Afghanistan.

He said: “We got a phone call in the Marston branch when the first repatriation came past Headley Way, in June 2008, and a few veterans stood on the pavement to pay our respects.

“We never knew where it was going to lead and it wasn’t long before hundreds of people gathered there.”

Mr Lewendon’s wife Joyce died aged 76 in 2005, and his son, Colin, who lived in Oxford, died aged 55 from a suspected heart attack in 2009.

Mr Lewendon has two daughters, Christine, 63, who lives in Norfolk, and Wendy, 49, who lives in Cuddesdon, near Oxford.

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