'Absolute legend': tributes paid to dinner lady of 43 years

Doris Peat retirement party

When Doris retired in 2018 she was described by the school as a great colleague and valued friend. - Credit: The Coopers' Company and Coborn School

An Upminster dinner lady who was awarded an MBE from the Queen for services to education has died aged 92.

Doris Peat worked as the senior midday supervisor at The Coopers' Company and Coborn School in Upminster for 43 years, from 1975 to 2018.

Headteacher Sue Hay described her as an "absolute legend" who always had a smile and kind word for every student.

She said: “She was an amazing lady and had an amazing impact on everyone who knew her.

“Her work ethic, and the care and attention she showed to the students completely epitomises 'love as brethren', our school motto.

“We’re a family and a community, and Doris was a really important part of that.”

Doris supported students for most of her career, taking on a pastoral role which Sue stressed was more than just cleaning up lunch plates, and later provided staff with refreshments. 

In 2012 she was made an MBE for her dedication to the school.

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Her son Lee, 60, told the Recorder that when she received the letter from the palace, she thought he was playing a joke on her.

He explained: “She was a very humble person.

“She was someone who didn’t want people to fuss over her - she wanted to fuss over people.”

Doris joined the school when Lee was a student there in 1975, but he said he was not given any preferential treatment.

“My mates did try to skip the lunch queue by saying they were my friends though,” he admitted. 

The much-loved dinner lady retired three years ago, aged 89, to care for her husband of over 70 years, Ernie, who has dementia. 

The school’s Facebook post announcing her death has attracted over 50 comments from people who knew Doris sending their condolences.

Former student Karis Denieffe-George, who left the school in 2006, said: “(Doris was) an iconic part of lunchtime at CCCS.

“She was a wonderful woman dedicated to keeping us kids safe and happy at school.”

Another former student Darren Batt commented: “Doris will always be in my memories of school, amazing dedication and never one to shy away from keeping us in line when we lower-school-block youngsters were causing trouble!”

Following her death on Monday morning, The Coopers' Company and Coborn School flew their flag at half mast as a sign of respect.