TRIBUTES have been paid to "kind-hearted" Stourbridge community stalwart Betty Fowkes, who ran popular social clubs for people with learning disabilities.

Betty, who founded Happy Hours and later The Smilers Club with her late husband Ray, had been suffering with Alzheimer's for the last few years and she passed away at Netherton Green care home at the age of 80 - having fallen ill with COVID-19 symptoms.

Relative Wendy Fowkes said Alzheimers was given as the official cause of death but Betty had developed coronavirus symptoms before she died on April 29.

Betty and Ray set up Happy Hours 40 years ago and The Smilers Club some 30 years ago to give people with learning disabilities a place to socialise and enjoy discos, games, art, activities, sports and trips away.

She was also a church warden at Christ Church, Lye, for many years and raised thousands of pounds in the 1980s and 1990s for both the clubs and the church.

Betty was also a well-known face at carnivals and fetes, where she would often run tombola or bric-a-brac stalls.

Wendy, a volunteer with The Smilers Club, said: "She was a beautiful person both inside and out, she was kind-hearted, caring, giving and an all-round amazing lady.

"Betty will be truly missed by all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as her family and many friends, neighbours and especially members and their families of both Happy Hours and The Smilers Club."

She said Betty had been happy and well looked after at Netherton Green and "felt like she was with family".

A funeral service will be held at Stourbridge Crematorium on June 1 at 3.30pm for great-grandmother Betty but due to current coronavirus regulations it will be a socially distanced gathering with only 10 close relatives permitted to attend.

The family hope to live stream the service online for friends and relatives unable to attend and they are also hoping that restrictions may ease a little and more people will be able to attend nearer the date.

Donations made in Betty's memory will go to Happy Hours which started out at St Andrew's Church Hall in Wollescote but now meets at The Elton Centre, Stourbridge, under usual circumstances. The Smilers Club met at Christ Church in Lye to begin with but is now based at Lifecentral Church in Halesowen. Club members hail from across Stourbridge, Lye, Halesowen, Cradley, Quarry Bank and Dudley.

Betty, who together with husband Ray was a dedicated foster carer for 10 years, is survived by the couple's five children - Steve, Tina, Alan, John and their adopted daughter Johanna who has Downs Syndrome.