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Honours for brave pair
9:37am Thursday 3rd January 2013 in News
TWO brave Whitefield residents have been honoured by the Queen for using their personal battles for survival to become champions in charity and education.
Hilary Craft, aged 55, who is battling cancer for a third time, has been given a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours for creating two charities that have raised nearly £500,000 for cancer-fighting research and equipment.
Meanwhile, Mayer Hersh, aged 86, who survived the horrors of nine wartime concentration camps, has been awarded an MBE for services to Holocaust education.
Hilary, a mother-of-one, is currently battling liver and lung cancer, and said she was “deeply humbled” by the accolade, saying it would spur her on to reach her ultimate goal.
“My over-riding aim is to help cure cancer for good. I want us to get to a position where it no longer kills people, so it can become a chronic, treatable condition like diabetes is,” she said, speaking to The Guide from Thailand where she is on holiday.
Hilary is the director of a finance company Regency Factors, based in Jubilee Way, Bury, and has been fighting the illness over a 15-year period with the support of friends and family, particularly her husband Maurice, aged 57 and her son Jonathan, aged 30.
It began in 1998 when she discovered a lump on her right breast and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer.She underwent a lumpectomy and four weeks of radiotherapy.
Then in 2001, she suffered more health problems when she became overly tired and weak. Doctors diagnosed Hilary with leukaemia.
It was at that point whenHilary developed a powerful urge to begin fundraising to help the fight against cancer.
Hilary founded The Gene Machine charity and raised £70,000 to pay for a machine that could detect whether those in remission for leukaemia were likely to suffer a setback.
The charity — and Hilary’s second good cause Action Against Cancer — organises sportsmen’s dinners and entertainment galas at prestigious venues and is supported by sporting celebritie.
Such events allowed Hilary and her team of volunteers to buy medical equipment and to fund a research assistant.
Hilary was ecstatic with the progress of The Gene Machine, but she suffered a third setback in 2009 when doctors discovered a tumour in her lung.
Hilary said: “The doctors all but wrote me off and yet I’m still here. I know I’m on borrowed time, but we have to find a way to beat cancer, which is why I’m giving it my all.”
For many years, Mayer Hersh has been a familiar figure at schools and other educational establishments where he has given graphic accounts of his life in concentration camps.
He has also taken part in numerous Holocaust Memorial Day events at many secondary schools.
The 86-year-old has been part of the Holocaust Education Programme in the North West for more than 30 years.
In 1940, aged 14, he and his Jewish family were taken to concentration camps in occupied Poland to be slave labourers During four years he was moved to nine different camps, eventually ending up in Auschwitz, which he has described as “the worst hell on earth.”
He was forced to lie about his age as he would have been classed “too young to live”, and had to pretend he did not miss his home.
Only Mr Hersh and his brother Jakob survived from an immediate family of eight and an extended family of close to 100.
In 1945, after the end of World War Two, he moved to a hostel in Ambleside. Later, he settled in the Whitefield area, becoming a high class tailor prior to his retirement.