A PENARTH widow who alongside her late husband has raised more than half a million pounds for charity has reflected on their “wonderful and thrilling journey” together.

On December 18 Dennis Lush MBE died aged 98 following a long battle with dementia and a short period with pneumonia.

In 2000 Ann Lush MBE and her husband made the front cover of the Penarth Times’ millennium edition after the pair became the first ever couple to receive their MBEs at the same time.

The award came after decades of hard-fought campaigning for the Children’s Society – which raises funds to support vulnerable children.

By then Mrs Lush – who grew up as an orphan with her brother after both of their parents died when they were very young – had already spent 11 years as chairman of the Penarth branch.

With Mr Lush as her trusted sidekick, the pair made a formidable team and turned the fundraising fortunes of the Penarth branch around in the last 25 years. From raising around £1,500 in 1996, the charity began to raise tens of thousands a year.

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The couple became particularly well-known for organising the Penarth Open Garden Trail in 1996, which is now a major event in the town’s social calendar.

Remembering when she decided to open their garden 25 years ago, Mrs Lush said: “We had a monthly newsletter from the charity and we saw that Alan Titchmarsh was promoting ‘Gardens Great and Small’ for the Children’s Society.

“I decided we’d open the garden three weeks later for a weekend of fundraising.

“Dennis thought I was completely mad. But we did it. He was a brilliant gardener and it was a huge success. On that day we made £500, and we haven’t really stopped.

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“The following year five more friends joined in, and then the private allotments on Westbourne Road.

“It’s become bigger than we ever imagined – in 2019 we made £6,000, and we had people from all over come and see the gardens and enjoy some food.

“We’ll be doing it again this year if we can with the pandemic.”

As well as the open gardens Mr Lush worked tirelessly to support the parish, and was trying to procure money for Lavernock Church right up until his death.

As a keen artist he created many paintings which were entered for prize draws that also raised thousands.

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“The open gardens became the big thing, but we did so much together – afternoon teas, prize draws, barbeques, you name it. Dennis was wonderful at being able to get super prizes.

“We were a brilliant team because I probably had more enthusiasm and – as an ex-banker – Dennis had a different way of thinking about how we could turn that enthusiasm into reality.”

Before his time banking Mr Lush served as a flight navigator in the Second World War, and wanted to continue his career in the Royal Air Force, but his father encouraged him to leave and get a “safer job”.

Mrs Lush said her husband was “meant for me” after both of them were widowed. They were married in 1986 after Mr Lush moved to Penarth after meeting Mrs Lush on holiday in Switzerland.

“He jumped into the fundraising with me like you wouldn’t believe.

“I became chairman in 1989 and told him he’d have no choice but to be involved – he leapt into it.”

Reflecting on her favourite memories of her husband, she said: “25 years ago we were in Jerusalem for Palm Sunday. That was an incredible experience.

“We went to the Garden of Gethsemane and it looked remarkably similar to something we’d done in the garden at home. We’d almost done a miniature version.

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“Another really lovely memory was when we went on a cruise in the Caribbean 14 years ago, and got the whole ship singing ‘How Great Thou Art’. Dennis always said when we sang the song in church it would take him back to that day.”

She says she is glad they’ve managed to contribute “some kindness” for vulnerable children.

“I was an orphan but I was very fortunate that I had a wonderful gran who brought us up.

“People were kind to us, and I was aware life wasn’t like that for others like me.

“If we’ve managed to spread some of that kindness then that is lovely – because that’s what Dennis was. Even strangers told me how lovely he was, and they are right.”

Reflecting on the passing of her parents, her first husband, her brother, and now Mr Lush, Mrs Lush says she has “nothing to be upset about”.

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“I take the positives because I have had a wonderful journey and Dennis and I had a wonderful journey.

“There have been more positives to take than anything else. I don’t think people pull enough positives out of things.

“I was fine to be on my own for Christmas. I rather enjoyed reflecting on those lovely memories.

“The first three letters in fundraising are ‘fun’ – and fun is exactly what we’ve had.”

  • A funeral service will be held for Mr Lush at the Holy Nativity Church on Plassey Street at 1.45pm on January 21. Notices for a memorial service will be given in due course.
  • Donations will be given to the Children’s Society in lieu of family flowers. Any donations should go to Sue Bailey at 9 Dingle Road, Penarth.