Tributes paid to cat-loving Dereham post lady Avril Harris
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 January 2015
She was a friend to all as she delivered letters and parcels on her Dereham round, but now a whole community, including its four-legged members, is mourning the death of its favourite post lady.
Avril Harris, who worked for Royal Mail for the past 10 years, died age 62 on January 11 after a series of strokes.
Tributes have been pouring in for Mrs Harris who was known for her kind and generous nature to her customers as much as for her love and affection for animals, particularly cats.
Husband John said she had been a volunteer at two cat rescue centres and often picked up strays on her rounds and gave them a home.
People in the Moorgate and Baxter Row area of Dereham, where she delivered the post, also told how their cats would wait out for her morning round as she would give them treats as she went past.
Mr Harris said: “She was a really friendly person and knew most people in town. If anyone wanted a hand with anything she would be the first to offer help.
“The Dereham Cats Protection centre in Longham was probably her favourite place, and Venture Farm cat rescue in Mattishall. They were a very important part of her life. She would go to socialise the cats ready for rehoming and also help clean them out and feed them.
“She knew all the cats on her round and where they lived.”
He added that he first met his future wife when she was just 12 after he became friends with her older brother Tony Barrett when they worked together at Metamec in Dereham.
But it wasn’t until some years later when Mr Barrett got married and asked Mr Harris to be his best man and his sister to be bridesmaid that romance blossomed.
“We were together from that day and got married on September 1, 1973,” said Mr Harris. “I retired last year and we had so many plans.”
Carol Lai, who runs Venture Farm, said Mrs Harris was “an exceptional person”. She said: “Avril and John came every week without fail and helped out as much as they could. I really miss those mornings. She was great with the cats and the people as well and she will be very very missed.”
Paul Hannant, deputy manager at Dereham Cats Protection, said she had been a volunteer for over 14 years.
“She came every week without fail and was very good with the cats,” he said. “She was always rounding up strays and bringing them in. She was such a caring person and also supported us at fund-raising events.”
Laura Steward, one of Moorgate’s residents, has set up a fund-raising web page in Mrs Harris’s memory with donations for Cats Protection in Dereham.
“She was my post lady for the past 10 years and her post was never late,” she said. “She was just lovely and she talked to everyone. She knew my kids’ names and even bought them presents when they were born. She was very special.
“She always had biscuits for the cats and a stroke and a cuddle for them too.
“The mornings are not the same without her - even the cats on her round are still waiting for her and her treats.”
* To donate to to Cats Protection Dereham in Mrs Harris’ memory visit the website www.justgiving.com/Laura-Steward.
* The funeral service is at St Faith’s Crematorium on Wednesday, February 4 at 11am. Family flowers only please, but donations, if desired, to be shared between Venture Farm Animal Trust and Cats Protection may be given at the service or sent c/o and payable to W C Littleproud and Son (donation account) Family Funeral Directors, Hale Road, Bradenham, IP25 7RA. Mourners are asked to wear a touch of colour.