SAMARITANS volunteers have paid tribute to Archers actor and fellow volunteer Sara Coward – who parted life with a smile.
The 69 year-old, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, passed away on Sunday in Leamington.
Sara was best known for playing Caroline Sterling for nearly four decades in the Radio 4 series The Archers but was also known for her charitable work in Warwickshire.
And from her hospice bed in Leamington, Sara launched a campaign called Sm:)e, asking people to be nicer to each other by carrying out spontaneous acts of kindness and smiling at strangers.
She hoped to build 1,000 miles of smiles and asked people to send in their smiles on social media and her campaign continues to grow.
Sara started volunteering with the Stratford branch of Samaritans – which offers support to people who are depressed or suicidal and need someone to talk to – in 2009.
Samaritans volunteer Caroline said: “Listening to Sara on the phone was like a masterclass in how to talk to a caller – she was so good at empathising with people and getting them to open up and talk.
“Very occasionally a caller would recognise her voice and ask: ‘Aren’t you in The Archers?’ but Sara was always able to sidestep the question and gently bring the topic of conversation back to the caller.”
Sara was also the fundraising officer at Stratford for several years and raised around £30,000 for the branch.
She persuaded fellow Archers actors to appear in fundraising shows with her and successfully managed two Samaritans pop-up charity shops in Stratford.
Caroline continued: “Shoppers never walked out without buying something when Sara was there. She had a wonderful way with people and everyone warmed to her.
“Sara will be greatly missed by many, many people, especially at the branch. It’s so very sad that she has gone.”
Visit www.facebook.com/smilemoments1000 to join the Sm:)e campaign.