A FORMER mayor and councillor has become only the fourth person to receive Banbury’s highest honour.
Businesswoman Rosemarie Higham Stevens, who says Banbury is emblazoned on her heart, became an Honorary Burgess at a celebration in Banbury Town Hall last Thursday.
She is the first woman to be awarded the honour and joins Maurice Humphris, Jack Friswell and George Parish on the prestigious list.
Council leader Kieron Mallon, who proposed the award, said: “This is not something that is awarded lightly.
“It is given for a long and distinguished history of service to Banbury. It is the equivalent to the Freedom of the Town.
“Rosemarie is a Grimsbury girl who worked in a tough world. She doesn’t give in easily – if at all.
“She is a local girl made good – a tough cookie with a heart of gold.”
“Her lifetime achievements are exceptional.”
Rosemarie was born in 1942 and lived in Manor Road, Banbury. She attended St Leonard’s School where George Parish was a classmate.
She got the fundraising bug at the age of seven when she raised fifteen shillings for the Horton Hospital – the equivalent to around £30 today.
At 26, Rosemarie took over the family coal business and was the first woman to receive a National Coal Board Diploma.
During the miners’ strike in 1984 she worked day and night to source coal from around the world for her regular customers – and BBC’s Panorama made a programme featuring her business.
Rosemarie pioneered CCTV in Banbury, raising funds to enable Banbury to become the first town in the country to have colour CCTV.
She was chairman and president of Banbury Chamber of Commerce, a Cherwell District councillor and chairman and of the Banbury Crime Prevention Panel.
Over the years she led a string of fundraising campaigns and raised tens of thousands of pounds for charities, including Help for Heroes, cash to fit security locks on pensioners’ homes, £4,500 for a police identity kit to help track down a rapist, a hospital scanner, the Lady on the White Horse statue and money for a safe house for victims of domestic violence.
Rosemarie said: “To become an Honorary Burgess is a great honour. I’m proud to be a local girl who has helped good things happen in Banbury.
“It has been a privilege to have been part of the town I love.
“I’ve said before – Banbury is emblazoned on my heart.”