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D-Day veteran and charity fundraiser, 92, chosen as next Pride in Sheffield award winner

Graham Bell. Picture: Andrew Roe
Graham Bell. Picture: Andrew Roe
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When Graham Bell was just 16 years old, he signed up for the Navy and was soon sent into action on D-Day, liberating France from the Nazi occupation.

Now 92, the great-grandfather from Handsworth is fond of visiting schoolchildren in Sheffield, to deliver an unforgettable message in history classes.

"When he was their age he was fighting for his country," says his daughter Fiona. The experiences he shares are a complete eye-opener for today's teenagers, she adds. "In those days you didn't have counselling or anything like that."

Since retiring from his job as a steelworker, the Blades supporter has also dedicated his time to fundraising for charities around the city - a tireless mission which has been highlighted with a prize.

Graham is the fourth winner of The Moor Pride in Sheffield Community Champion Awards, backed by The Star. Awards are being handed to individuals who improve the lives of others but don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

"At least four days a week he goes to various locations around the city to shake his collection tin for either Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, the children's hospital, the guide dog charity or the Royal Society for the Blind," says Fiona, whose father completed a fire walk aged 91 and completed the Great Yorkshire Run annually until his 90th birthday.

"He goes all over. I think that's why he's so fit and healthy. He also spends time helping and visiting people who are housebound."

Champions are being picked from each of the city's six parliamentary constituencies; Graham lives in Sheffield South East.

Winners are being highlighted in The Star and on a special display on The Moor, where thousands will see their story. The campaign is being run alongside Aberdeen Asset Management, which owns the revamped shopping street and is giving each champion £250 to put towards their cause, plus treats from the development's shops and attractions.

Fiona says her father is 'thrilled'. "I'm really proud. I feel sorry for my long-suffering mum who barely sees him. He is a great role model."

Graham has been married to Mary, 85, for 65 years. They have three children, including Fiona, as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

He was made an MBE in 2005 for his charity work, and received the Légion d'honneur - France's highest military distinction - in 2017. The latter achievement came not long after he gained a degree in French from Sheffield University, aged 90.

The first community champion to be recognised was Tessa Lupton, of Fox Hill in the Brightside and Hillsborough constituency, who was nominated for her campaign to get new play equipment installed at Wolfe Road Park, which has been targeted by vandals.

Then Liz Godfrey, of Endcliffe in Sheffield Central, was revealed as the second winner. She was picked for her role as a co-ordinator of the local Heritage Open Days, an annual programme that has rapidly grown in popularity since she took the helm with fellow volunteers.

The third champion was Richard Hay, development manager of the Double Six Youth Club in Woodseats, in Sheffield Heeley. He was nominated for his work leading an organisation that, locally at least, stands virtually alone - a place where young people aged eight to 19 can gather, socialise and enjoy activities from cooking to sports, arts and crafts.