From Sussex to Chernobyl: farewell to wonderful guide president

Penny Hardwick received an OBE for her contribution
Penny Hardwick received an OBE for her contribution

An exceptional woman, known throughout West Sussex for her tireless voluntary work has died at the age of 81.

Mrs Penny Hardwick of Brandy Hole Lane, Chichester, leaves a remarkable legacy of opportunity for young people and was an inspiring example of attainment, determination and warmth.

From 1967 and for the next 24 years, she led a holiday venture for under-privileged children from London, and later from Chernobyl.

Involving families from across the Chichester area, she ensured the children had a warm welcome to the county and an experience that would remain a happy memory for many years.

Penny began a Brownie Pack in Summersdale in 1972, never imagining the path this would take her on. Her energy and natural ability with people meant she progressed through the Girl Guide movement until she became County Commissioner of Sussex West in 1984, followed by President in 1991.

She was chairman of the West Sussex Duke of Edinburgh’s Award from 1994-2002, as well as being President of Outset Youth Volunteering and President of the West Sussex Council for Voluntary Youth Services. This list shows how highly Penny was valued for her leadership and how she did not shy away from responsibility.

In fact she relished a challenge, got huge satisfaction from being involved in the community and managed to bring people together in a way few people can. She encouraged young people to achieve whatever they wanted and showed, by example, how they could go boldly through life.

Penny became a magistrate in 1978, serving on the Chichester Bench until 2002. In 1993 she was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for West Sussex. When the future of Lodge Hill Activity Centre was at risk of closure in 1998, Penny rallied together people to help her raise £1 million to save it and a further £2million to grow its facilities. Its continued success today is testament to the success of this goal, and she remained involved as president of Lodge Hill Trust until shortly before her death. She was awarded an OBE in 2000.

An eloquent speaker and writer, Penny wrote “Snippets of Life” for four years for the West Sussex Gazette. She adored travelling and chose destinations that were less travelled, where she took great pleasure in meeting people from different cultures. She wrote personal memoirs and enjoyed sharing her experiences as a speaker to community groups.

Alongside all her work, Penny always found time for her husband, four children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, whom she adored and who remember her for her big personality, humour and constant love. She also found time for wider family and friends, with whom she formed deep bonds and who meant so much to her.

In tribute to his wife, Anthony Hardwick said: “Penny believed in living life to its full. She believed in people and their potential, at any age and from any background. And people returned this confidence with their time, trust and friendship.”

All who knew and loved her are warmly welcome to a Memorial Service at St Paul’s Church on a date in early June to be announced shortly. There will be a private family crematorium service.