A great-grandmother who looked after more than 100 children in 50 years has been appointed an MBE for services to foster care.
Stella Tomkinson, 79, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, said she had been told about the honour in November.
She said although fostering had its ups and downs, “it is really rewarding”.
Mrs Tomkinson said she had been “really lucky,” adding: “I can honestly say that if I lived my life again, I would do exactly the same thing.”
‘A wonderful life’
She and her husband Bill, a butcher, decided to become foster carers in the 1960s after discovering they could not have children.
“I had six miscarriages; it was heartbreaking,” she said.
They adopted a five-week-old baby girl in 1962 and then put their names down to adopt further children – only to be asked to foster a little girl with health problems instead.
That prompted the couple to foster more children, including several with disabilities.
“The most we had living with us at any one time was seven,” said Mrs Tomkinson.
“At the start, we just lived in a normal three-bedroom terrace in Nuneaton. We always had room for everyone though.”
Mrs Tomkinson found her emotional attachment to her charges challenging at times.
“I always feel upset when they leave,” she said.
Some children stayed for a few months; others remained until adulthood.
Mrs Tomkinson stopped fostering two years ago, after her husband’s death in 2009.
However, she has set up a weekly support group for parents of children with disabilities through Nuneaton and Bedworth’s Mencap Society.
‘Proud of children’
She now has six adopted children, 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
“I’m proud of all the children I’ve looked after,” she said. “Many people find Christmas a lonely time and if I hadn’t had all these children, I would probably have been lonely too.
“I have been really lucky watching all these children grow up.”
Other recipients of honours from Coventry and Warwickshire include:
- Ian Harrabin, who chairs the Historic Coventry Trust and helped rescue the city’s medieval Charterhouse, is appointed MBE for services to heritage and regeneration in Coventry
- Former Warwickshire coroner Michael Coker is made an MBE for services to the community
- Prof Richard Lilford, from the University of Warwick, is appointed a CBE for services to health research