TRIBUTES have been paid to a "wonderful" woman who helped run a hugely popular line-dancing club for almost a decade.

Jean and Alan Dereve, who lived in Wickham Bishops, ran the Ameridance club in Witham from 1996.

The couple were bitten by the line-dancing bug after travelling in the US.

Alan said: "We were a very successful club – probably the best in the Braintree and Witham area.

"About 350 people went through the club and about 120 stayed with us over the nine and a half years.

"We were a big part of life in Witham."

The couple met at a dance at Wimbledon Pally in 1951 when Alan was on leave from the Army.

"I wanted to have the last dance with her, but someone else got there before me," he said.

"I knew she had come on the bus so I said to one of my friends, who had a Wolseley Hornet, let's whip around to the bus stop.

"She had already got her bus but her friend said they would be coming back the next week so we went back and that was when I fell in love with her."

The couple married in 1955 and were together for 65 "wonderful years".

They moved from Wimbledon to Springfield, but then emigrated to Canada for two years.

Alan said: "I remember getting home from work and saying, 'Darling, we are emigrating'.

"She said 'Okay - I'll go get the cases'."

After returning to live in Danbury for five years, they moved to Wickham Bishops in 1973.

In 1995 the couple, who had a son and daughter, set off to travel around the US.

Alan said: "We did 20,000 miles and visited 27 states, a couple of provinces in Canada and had two day trips into Mexico - it was a wonderful experience.

"When we got back, line-dancing was just starting up in England, so we thought we would give it a try.

"I loved the newer country music – my heroes were Shania Twain and Garth Brooks

"We hired Witham Public Hall.

"Several friends in Wickham Bishops said they would come ... in case no one else turned up.

"But when Jean opened the door there was a queue right down the road and we had 65 people crowded in there.

"We wanted to create an atmosphere where everyone was enjoying themselves - it was like a party every night."

"We had such a marvellous time."

Jean died in Woodland View care home, in Colchester, on May 7, aged 85.

She had been suffering from dementia.

Alan said: "I looked after her until April 10.

"Jean was a lovely lady. We travelled the world together. We went to 86 different countries, including Thailand, India, Hong Kong and Fiji.

"She was a wonderful wife and friend – she was game for anything."

"We had such a wonderful, wonderful life."