MOURNERS are expected to gather in their hundreds to remember a woman who has been at the heart of community life for decades.

Maureen Simpson, originally of Witton Park, devoted much of her life to the local methodist movement and women’s groups in the village and her home town of nearby Bishop Auckland.

The mother-of-one was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2015 and died at the age of 69 on June 27 following a courageous two years during which she helped raise about £5,000 for charity.

Jimmy Simpson, her husband of almost 48 years, said: “She was very very popular - I’ve never really known anyone else like that and I’m very proud.”

Born in Witton Park on Christmas Day, 1947, Mrs Simpson attended school in the village where she met her future husband Mr Simpson at the age of about three. The pair sparked up a relationship aged 13, married in Bishop Auckland in 1969 and had son James Simpson, now 38.

After school Mrs Simpson worked on the assembly floor at electronics factory West Tools, in St Helen Auckland, and at telecommunications factory GEC, in Newton Aycliffe.

She later worked as a receptionist at a salon in Bishop Auckland, for a local doctor and then spent 15 years behind the counter at Etheringtons Newsagents, on Cockton Hill, before retiring in 2010.

It was through her work and dedication to community life that Mrs Simpson became well known.

She was a member of the Women’s Institute in Newbiggin, in Teesdale, and held a number of groups from venues and her home for women around healthy eating and fitness.

Described as a “healthy eating and keep fit fanatic”, Mrs Simpson walked four miles every day until she was unable to as a result of MND.

For 15 years she sat on the committee and organised luncheon clubs and coffee mornings at the Four Clocks Centre, in Bishop Auckland, formerly the methodist church. And ten years ago Mrs Simpson started organising the same events at Witton Park Methodist Chapel - built by Mr Simpson’s now closed building company.

Visited weekly by the Reverend David Briggs, Mrs Simpson organised her funeral for Witton Park Methodist Chapel.

It takes place today at midday followed by a cremation at Wear Valley Crematorium and refreshments at the chapel.

Donations will go to the Butterwick Hospice.