But she became so impressed with the work of the charity that she decided to stay – for 44 years.
Mrs Nixon, 60, of Pateley Bridge, near Harrogate, retired as the charity’s senior fund-raising manager for the north this year after helping to raise millions during her time – and promptly joined it again as a volunteer.
Now she has been acknowledged for her remarkable dedication by being awarded an MBE for services to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on the New Year Honours list.
“I am just thrilled to pieces and absolutely delighted,” she told the Yorkshire Post.
“I joined as an office junior on a three month contract in the North East fundraising office in York and after that was going to go and work for a large insurance company, but I decided to stay.
“I have committed all of my working life to the RNLI and I don’t regret a minute of it.
“There is a huge amount of public affection for the RNLI, I believe it is one of the last great British charities.
“Its work is particularly important in Yorkshire where there is a very long and proud history of life-saving along the North Yorkshire coast.
“For people who use the Yorkshire coast it is very comforting to know our beaches and waters are in very capable hands.”
James Vaughan, RNLI corporate services director, said: “I know that everyone at the RNLI will be absolutely delighted to hear that Val is to be honoured with an MBE.
“She dedicated her life to our charity for more than 40 years, raising millions of pounds and playing an invaluable part in the cause of saving lives at sea.
“Val is an inspirational fund-raiser who made friends everywhere she went and it is a mark of her loyalty and commitment to the RNLI that, despite retiring in February, she is still volunteering for our charity.
“She is a remarkable lady.”