TRIBUTES have been paid to the former president of an amateur theatre group, who has died at the age of 83.

Greta Sanderson joined Darlington Operatic Society (OS) in 1947 at the age of 16 as a keen singer and dancer and stayed an active member for the rest of her life, becoming secretary, chairman and finally president of the organisation.

Members of the society said Mrs Sanderson, from Neasham, near Darlington, would be remembered as a determined lady, with a wicked sense of humour.

Gillian Shevels, chairwoman of Darlington OS, said Mrs Sanderson would be greatly missed by all at the society.

“She was just a massively huge character,” she said. “We had a special gala evening for her last year to celebrate all she had done for the society and I’m so pleased we were able to do that.

“While she was there I told the young people that without the efforts of Greta and her contemporaries they wouldn’t be standing there on the stage.

“She kept the society going and kept it healthy for future generations. Her contribution was immeasurable to be honest.”

The operatic society was a huge part of Mrs Sanderson’s life from her first performance as a dancer in a 1947 production of Goodnight Vienna.

She met her husband, Bernard, during rehearsals for the Vagabond King 1951 and they married shortly afterwards, going on to have three sons, Stephen, Peter and Nicholas. Over the years Mrs Sanderson performed in 23 musicals but was also invaluable behind the scenes as a dresser, a prompter or a matron for the child performers. She and her husband, who died in 2009, were both stalwart members of the society’s committee.

Lee Morris, a committee member, said: “Greta and Bernard served on the committee for many years, taking lead parts in shows and having a passion for amateur theatre that many other societies looked upon with envy.

“Greta wanted the best for Darlington OS and would make sure you knew if she thought you weren’t doing your job properly!”

In a statement, Mrs Sanderson’s family said: “The family appreciate and take great comfort from the kind messages of support from everybody.”

Funeral details will be announced in due course.