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Family Of Late Poppy Seller, 92, Say She Struggled To Deal With "Overwhelming" Charity Requests

Olive Cooke's body was found in Avon Gorge in Bristol on 6 May.

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Olive Cooke, one of the oldest poppy sellers in the UK, has died at the age of 92.

Her body was found in Bristol's Avon Gorge on 6 May by the emergency services.Cooke, from Fishponds, started selling poppies when she was 16 years old, after being inspired by her father’s efforts in setting up a Royal British Legion group in Bedminster, the Bristol Post reported.However, she told the newspaper in October last year that she was struggling to cope with the amount of requests she was receiving from charities, describing the almost 270 items of post she got each month as "overwhelming".Her son, Del Whelan, 62, said: “It was the constant drip of the begging letters. I think she found it difficult to say no. She had just had enough.”
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Her body was found in Bristol's Avon Gorge on 6 May by the emergency services.

Cooke, from Fishponds, started selling poppies when she was 16 years old, after being inspired by her father’s efforts in setting up a Royal British Legion group in Bedminster, the Bristol Post reported.

However, she told the newspaper in October last year that she was struggling to cope with the amount of requests she was receiving from charities, describing the almost 270 items of post she got each month as "overwhelming".

Her son, Del Whelan, 62, said: “It was the constant drip of the begging letters. I think she found it difficult to say no. She had just had enough.”

After her first husband, Leslie, was killed in action during the Second World War in 1943 when she was 21, Cooke dedicated her life to fundraising.

She was a well-known figure in the city and was regularly seen collecting for the RBL outside Bristol cathedral.Bristol's lord mayor, Alastair Watson, said she was a “city treasure”, the BBC reported."She was just wonderful, she was bright as a button – she loved telling her stories,” he told BBC Radio Bristol.The Royal British Legion's area manager, David Lowe, said that Cooke’s charity work was not limited to collecting money."Olive [also] found time to become the standard-bearer in the Bedminster Down Women's section – a task she carried out for 54 years until 1998," he said. "Olive later became secretary and chairman of the section... she will be greatly missed, but not forgotten.”
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She was a well-known figure in the city and was regularly seen collecting for the RBL outside Bristol cathedral.

Bristol's lord mayor, Alastair Watson, said she was a “city treasure”, the BBC reported.

"She was just wonderful, she was bright as a button – she loved telling her stories,” he told BBC Radio Bristol.

The Royal British Legion's area manager, David Lowe, said that Cooke’s charity work was not limited to collecting money.

"Olive [also] found time to become the standard-bearer in the Bedminster Down Women's section – a task she carried out for 54 years until 1998," he said. "Olive later became secretary and chairman of the section... she will be greatly missed, but not forgotten.”

Cooke’s daughter, Kathryn, said the family was proud of everything she had achieved in her long life.

Cooke raised thousands of pounds for charity and up until her death was spending virtually all her state pension on charity donations, the Bristol Post reported .Her granddaughter, Louise, said the 92-year-old had suffered from depression and was struggling to sleep, The Guardian said. She also suggested that being continually contacted by charities and cold callers had caused her some distress.Cooke herself told the Bristol Post last year that she received almost 270 items of post from charities asking for donations in a single month.
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Cooke raised thousands of pounds for charity and up until her death was spending virtually all her state pension on charity donations, the Bristol Post reported .

Her granddaughter, Louise, said the 92-year-old had suffered from depression and was struggling to sleep, The Guardian said. She also suggested that being continually contacted by charities and cold callers had caused her some distress.

Cooke herself told the Bristol Post last year that she received almost 270 items of post from charities asking for donations in a single month.

She told the paper in October: "I have started to just put all the letters into a big box, and then I have to spend my Sunday afternoons sorting them all out ready for the recycling – but some weeks it takes even longer."

"I think the elderly are targeted with this sort of mail on purpose, as charities think they have lots of disposable money or they might have donated in the past, but receiving so much is overwhelming. And it's not just post, there are also lots of phone calls that come through."There must be a lot of people in a similar situation."I will continue to donate to charity, but I can only select a few which I think are most important."
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"I think the elderly are targeted with this sort of mail on purpose, as charities think they have lots of disposable money or they might have donated in the past, but receiving so much is overwhelming. And it's not just post, there are also lots of phone calls that come through.

"There must be a lot of people in a similar situation.

"I will continue to donate to charity, but I can only select a few which I think are most important."

Police have said they are not treating Cooke’s death as suspicious. An inquest is due to be opened next week, the BBC reported.

Richard James is the News Director for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

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