TRIBUTES have been paid to a “much loved and dedicated” worker at a charity supporting autistic people, after she died from coronavirus.

Margaret ‘Margie’ Blyth, who had served the North East Autism Society for 18 years, passed away in hospital, aged 66.

The charity’s Chief Executive, John Phillipson, described Margie as a “local hero”, adding: “In losing her, we have lost a significant member of our team and a friend. We’ve lost one of our own, and she will be greatly missed.”

News of her death coincides with International Workers’ Memorial Day, with people across the world holding a minute’s silence at 11am today to remember health, care and other key workers who have died from coronavirus.

In an email to staff, Mr Phillipson broke the news with a “heavy heart” after Margie died at Sunderland Royal Infirmary where she had been treated for coronavirus.

He said: “When someone dies, there is often a rush of people who want to say how special they were. Sometimes the comments exaggerate just how special the person was. In Margie’s case, the compliments will be entirely deserved.

“Margie was a great favourite of people who worked closely with her. She was reliable, hard-working and dedicated. She would do anything for anyone. She had a great sense of humour and we will all miss the warmth of her personality.”

Although Margie’s official title was “domestic staff”, colleagues described her as “so much more”, saying she had been “Mum” to staff and service-users at the Emsworth centre for adult day care services in Sunderland.

Tributes have flooded in from fellow staff members, with one saying: “To our service-users, she was part of their everyday life, whether it be greeting them at the door with a smile, seeing them off in their taxis with a wave, tidying their rooms, washing their clothes and preparing their lunches.

“She devoted her life to her work and her family, and she will be forever remembered by us all.”

It is not known how Margie contracted the virus, but Mr Phillipson said no one else had shown symptoms who had been near her at work.

Margie’s son, Jon, said: “She was so proud to work for the Society – I tried to get her to retire but she wouldn’t because she loved working there. She was a very strong woman who always put others first.”

Her husband Peter added: “If anyone ever needed anything, she was always there to help.”

Jon’s best friend Jemma Potts and her partner Scott Palmer, who live in Washington, shone an image of Margie on a wall, and residents in their street applauded as a tribute.

The family revealed that Margie had been suffering from an underlying health condition which had weakened her lungs.

She also leaves a daughter, Rachael, two grandchildren – Jacob, six, and Charlie, 11 months – and a step great grandchild, Oliver, five.

She lived in the Millfield area of Sunderland but was originally from Boston, in Lincolnshire.

Margie’s funeral is to be held at Sunderland Crematorium at 5pm on Thursday, May 7, and the family is setting up a JustGiving page in her name to raise money for the North East Autism Society in lieu of flowers. A party to celebrate her life will be held after the lockdown.

To make a donation in Margie’s memory, go to: