Bristol poppy seller Olive Cooke marks 76 years

Olive Cooke selling poppies
Image caption Olive Cooke joined the Royal British Legion aged 16 and has sold poppies every year since

A charity volunteer who has clocked up 76 years of service is one of the UK's longest-serving poppy sellers.

Olive Cooke, 92, of Bristol, joined the Royal British Legion (RBL) aged 16 following her father who was an active member after serving in World War One.

Mrs Cooke said selling poppies took on a whole new meaning after her first husband was killed in action in 1943.

The RBL said it could not be exact but that Mrs Cooke was "one of our longest-standing poppy collectors".

Image copyright Olive Cooke
Image caption Olive Cooke married Leslie Hussey-Yeo when she was 18

For the past 12 years Mrs Cooke has sold poppies from the entrance to Bristol Cathedral.

She said she wished everyone would wear one with "great pride" to remember those who died in both world wars.

She said although she had only been married two-and-a-half years when her first husband Leslie Hussey-Yeo was killed, "he is in my memory every day".

"You never forget the lost people and he was such a good man you wouldn't want to," said Mrs Cooke.

"His words to me were that if anything were to happen to him, to always wear a smile and I've never got bitter. I never thought bitterness helped.

"I think of my husband, cousins and many of my school friends who were killed aged 18, all young men that we were at school with, so all of those faces come back to me."

Image copyright Olive Cooke
Image caption Leslie Hussey-Yeo was killed on submarine Thunderbolt during the Sicily invasion in March 1943
Image copyright Olive Cooke
Image caption In February 1944 Mrs Cooke and Leslie's youngest brother collected his posthumous distinguished service medal

Col Brian John, president of the City of Bristol group of RBL branches, said Mrs Cooke was their "most-valued poppy collector".

Sue Potepa, from the RBL in Bristol, said she was "well-loved" by the team.

"This year 350,000 volunteers like Olive will help us to ensure that the poppy is available to all those who wish to wear one and we are extremely grateful to her for the support she has given the Royal British Legion and our annual Poppy Appeal for more than 75 years," she said.

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