A FORMER Salisbury district councillor and champion of homeless people has died at the age of 85.

Betty Balcombe was a resident warden at Salisbury almshouses prior to her retirement, and was a keen supporter of Salisbury Trust for the Homeless.

Born in Bristol in 1928, Mrs Balcombe’s early years were spent in a children’s home and in hospital, and she had mobility problems throughout her life.

Her childhood experiences influenced her career and led her towards a life of caring for others.

During the Second World War she worked as an auxiliary nurse and she provided a foster home for many babies and young children.

She spent her later years living in Andover, where she continued her good works.

She was a founder member of the Weyfayre Social Club in Weyhill, which helps older people feel less isolated and lonely by organising regular get togethers, holidays and days out.

And was also a board member with Testway Housing and president of Testway Transform, the charitable arm of the social housing company.

One of the things she became best known for was as the ‘queen of the shoebox’.

For years she supported, and encouraged others to support, the Samaritan’s Shoebox appeal, which gives a shoebox full of donated gifts to children in poor countries at Christmas.

Mrs Balcombe was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who learned to use a computer and Smart phone so she could text her grandchildren.

For the last 20 years, her tireless companion in most of her community ventures was her partner, Charlie Wells.

In her spare time she enjoyed tapestry and music and was a lifelong football fan.

Her funeral will be held at St Michael and All Angels Church, Weyhill, on Wednesday, March 26 at 2.30pm