Obituary: Midcounties mainstay Doreen Shaw (1924-2024)

‘She is remembered with affection and admiration for what she stood for and for what she achieved’

A canny, much-loved co-operator is remembered by Edward Parker​​​​ (Midcounties Co-operative secretary and head of governance)

Doreen Shaw, who served as an elected director at Midcounties Co-operative and its predecessor societies for 40 years, has died just two months shy of her 100th birthday. 

She was born in Bloxwich, close to Walsall, where she lived all her life. In the 1950s, while raising her four children, she became active in the Bloxwich Co-operative Women’s Guild, serving as its president for over 30 years. And in May 1971 she was elected to the board of Walsall & District Co-operative Society, serving continuously as a director through a succession of mergers, including a period as president of West Midlands Co-operative Society, until October 2011 when she stood down from the board of Midcounties.

As a director, she was particularly canny with numbers – catching out unwary managers who mistakenly thought they could get away with glossing over poor performance; and she had a knack of keeping a board room balanced and focused when contentious issues were at play.

She was also well known as the life and soul of many a co-op gathering and was routinely one of the last to call it a day at Congress dinners and dances. But the fun side would never distract from the serious business of work and she was always up early the next day keen to learn, discuss and network. 

At a more profound level, she had an instinctive and practical grasp of what co-operation meant to ordinary people, understanding the day-to-day realities of life, while at the same time recognising the power of our co-operative values – education, self-help, self-responsibility, solidarity – to improve lives. 

She made it her business to get to know colleagues, made sure their voice was heard loudly in the board room, and that in every business decision the impact on people, members or colleagues, was given due and careful consideration. And she was a great champion and advocate for women. Leading by example, in fact, acting as a role model, she encouraged and supported many to push themselves forward and take on opportunities and responsibilities that were not always easy or well defined.    

She is remembered with affection and admiration for what she stood for and for what she achieved.