TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Citizen of the Year who contributed greatly to the Darlington community.

Joan Butler lived on Darlington’s Woodland Terrace for nearly 70-years and will be fondly remembered by many for her varied contributions to the life of the town.

One of her best-known achievements was helping to establish the Darlington Mind charity in 1980 and later setting up its new base on Duke Street.

Mrs Butler volunteered with Mind for around 20-years as she had a lifelong commitment to the mental health cause.

In 1997 her efforts in helping people were rewarded with her winning the Darlington Citizen of the Year accolade.

She was 78 when she received the award and she told The Northern Echo at the time that the good work being done by Mind would not have been possible without the many volunteers who helped.

In August 2000, Mrs Butler was again honoured for her voluntary service, along with fellow Mind founder Ken Parsons when a plaque dedicated to them was unveiled in the garden of the charity’s premises at St Hilda’s House on Borough Road.

Mrs Butler was also an active member of Holy Trinity Church throughout her lifetime and ran the church’s Brownie pack for many years.

In her earlier years during the Second World War, she served in wireless telegraphy in the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) and later went on to earn a degree in social work from Edinburgh university in 1947.

After graduating from Edinburgh, she moved to Darlington in the early 1950s to work in the probation service.

As a forward-thinker, Mrs Butler was keen to embrace all things modern and in the 1960s she took up a social studies teaching post with day-release students at the then new technical college on Cleveland Avenue in the 1960s.

She then moved on to a career as a psychiatric social worker at Darlington Memorial Hospital in the 1970s, where she worked until she retired.

Her daughter, Anna Butler, praised her mum’s contribution to Darlington, saying: “She always remained young at heart and will be remembered for being ‘a people person’. She will be very sadly missed by family and friends.” She added that her mum will be remembered by her great-nieces as “the fun auntie”.

Mrs Butler, who died aged 98 on December 11 in Ventress Hall, was widow to former Northern Echo journalist John Butler. They had another daughter, the late Marie.

Mrs Butler's funeral is at 2.15pm on January 7 at Holy Trinity Church in Darlington.