VALERIE Shepherd - the Life President of Seaford Little Theatre and one of its founders in 1945 - has died aged 97.

She had lived in Seaford all her life and loved the town, its surrounding countryside and the sea.

Indeed, she and her husband Ted, who died earlier this year, were usually to be found with friends always occupying the same spot between the Martello Tower and Splash Point until comparatively recently, and braving the sea from early spring until late autumn.

For Valerie was indomitable and, with Ted, was still skiing into her 80s, and going camping in Cornwall and on canal boat trips.

During the war she served at Lee on Solent and Newhaven as a Leading Wren.

She and Ted met in Seaford while Ted was based here with the Royal Signals.

They were introduced by another Army chap who knew Valerie through the work of her mother who invited young servicemen to tea at their home, Warren Gore in Chyngton Road, to help make them feel at home.

The couple were married at St Leonards Church on 18 September 1943, and had a daughter, Penny, in 1945.

They lived with Valerie’s mother and father until Penny was about three, when they moved to a flat in Dane Road, then a bungalow in Chyngton Gardens, before moving in 1952 to Little Paddock in Green Walk which became their family home.

All this time Valerie was also involved in what Penny, who was six-months-old when the Society was first formed, calls her “mother’s other child.”

With Valerie always much to the fore, what was then known as Seaford Dramatic Society’s plays were presented at either the Clinton Hall or the Queens Hall, with rehearsals taking place in hired rooms.

It wasn’t until 1956 that the society moved into the Steyne Road premises it has used ever since, although over the years they have been modernised extensively, saving Valerie and her fellow players from having to run the gauntlet of winter storms between dressing room and stage.

Always a stickler for perfection, Valerie set herself and others very high acting standards, always seeking professionalism of the highest calibre, and was a talented director, demanding and achieving performances from her actors that were as close to her exacting ideals as they could all achieve.

So warmly was she regarded by players and regular audiences alike that the night after her peaceful death on Friday September 1, shortly after the curtain came down on the triumph that was A Little Bit of Music Hall., Phil Armstrong as Master of Ceremonies invited the audience to give a round of applause in her memory.

The response was loud and heartfelt.

She is survived by her daughter Penny and grandsons Vaughan and Alexander.

The funeral was taking place at St Leonards Church, Seaford today (Thursday).