WOMEN donned summer dresses and hats to celebrate the centenary of the WI at a lunch in Rustington.
Members of Rustington WI chose a summer garden party theme for the lunch at The Woodlands Centre on Monday.
Their rousing version of WI anthem Jerusalem was recorded by the South Downs Amateur Film Group, as it has special significance in Rustington. Composer Sir Hubert Parry built Knights Croft House in the village in 1880 and lived there until his death in 1918.
The history of the group itself dates back to 1924, although over time it is seen the amalgamation of four WIs, Rustington Afternoon, Rustington Evening, Rustington Village and East Preston.
Joan Simms, 85, been a member since 1997 and has been on the committee ever since, including 11 years as treasurer.
She grew up in the Cotswolds and married Ronald, a soldier, in 1950. After travelling all over Europe and to Hong Kong with the Army, they settled in Rustington in 1966.
They later moved to Worthing but after Ronald died in 1993, Joan moved back to Rustington and joined the WI when she retired from her job as restaurant manager at Forward Trust Group.
“I had always been so active but after my husband died, I was like a cabbage,” she recalled.
“It was suggested I join the WI and I love it, I am a WI lady through and through. I had spent three years grieving on my own so it was a wonderful thing for me.”
Along with Pat Hayes and Hazel Tester, she breathed new life into what was a dwindling group at the time.
Joan added: “We worked jolly hard and got it going again. We were all with it and really enjoyed it.”
Pat Hayes, 82, has been a member for 20 years, having joined after she retired from her job as a social worker. She and her husband Charles, who died two years ago, wanted to give something back to the community so set about joining various groups.
She said: “We built it up to include a wider range of people and now it is thriving. We started groups meetings, like reading, writing and craft, so people could get to know each other better.
“It is so lively and friendly now, something it lacked 20 years ago. The amalgamation helped to bring in different ideas.”
Hazel is now a county adviser.
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