A dedicated social worker who was highly respected by colleagues and empathetic to all those she helped has died, aged 83.

Even when faced with dementia, Maureen Saunders continued to show kindness, a sense of humour, and love for others – at times believing she was still a social worker.

Born in 1938, to Robert and Dorothy Scrutton, in Poplar, east London, Maureen Hope Saunders lived her early years through the Second World War.

Known as Mo, she was evacuated with her mother before moving to Torquay in Devon, where the family decided to remain following the war.

Aged 10, she was joined by a younger sister, Kate, and a “loving, unbreakable bond was immediately formed” despite sometimes vast geographical distances between them.

Mrs Saunders attended Torquay Girls’ Grammar School. Reports from her teenage years commented that she was a "thoughtful member of the class, although on occasion her behaviour is not as sensible as might be expected of her.”

She began her career as a secretarial manager at an American airbase in Ruislip.

At this time, she was living her with husband, Malcolm Saunders, in Ealing, London, whom she married in 1960.

They were together for 29 years and had two sons; Timothy Justin in 1964, and Patrick James in 1965.

Her family said: “[She] was a dedicated mother and during the boys’ early childhood years she focused on instilling her ethos of thoughtfulness and empathy for others.

“Everybody loved Mo’s practicality, enthusiasm and genuine interest in them and their lives.”

Mrs Saunders became an active member of Our Lady of Stowmarket Catholic Church and in the early 1970s took on the role of parish secretary.

One of the many examples of her sensitive and caring nature was when she went out of her way to work closely with the local ecumenical community to bring young people from Northern Ireland to holiday in Suffolk. Also, she actively worked in support of Ugandan refugees.

In 1982, she left her role as a care home manager and began a new career as a qualified social worker in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

After retirement, she volunteered as a responsible adult with Norfolk Constabulary supporting young offenders in Diss - her hometown from the mid-1980s.

In her sixties, she qualified in aromatherapy massage and reflexology. In her later years, her spiritual understanding out-grew any conventional religion or faith. This was an obvious fact to those who saw her collection of multi-faith books, with the Quran next to the Jerusalem Bible.

Her passion for reading did not stop there, and she housed a collection of well over 1,000 books.

Her other interests included walking, swimming, music, travelling, watching live rugby union and tennis matches, and meeting with her Breakfast Club.

Her sister, Kate Lloyd-Rees, paid a heartfelt tribute to her. She said: “Mo’s big love was for the sea. Throughout her life she was never far from the coastline.

“[She] loved the sea and she took every opportunity to get in and swim. No matter the time of year, the inclemency of the weather or the size of the waves, Mo would brave the water even if sometimes she didn’t have her costume with her.

“Despite her condition, Mo continued to show her kindness, sense of humour and love for others. At times her belief that she was still a social worker and was there to care for the other residents, was embraced by the staff."

Mrs Saunders was diagnosed with dementia four years ago and moved to Bilney Hall Care Home, near Dereham, 18 months ago. She died with her family at her side on April 25. As well as a sister and two sons, she leaves behind five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.