She is still going strong at the age of 83, running five classes a week, including Popmo at Worthing Leisure Centre.
Family, friends and class regulars gathered at the centre yesterday lunchtime to see Celia invested with the honour by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs Susan Pyper.
Celia said: “It is so lovely to see people I haven’t seen for a while. If it wasn’t for all of you, this would not be happening.
“When I came back from holiday recently, I thought is this the time I will stop but then I put the music on and I light up.”
Mrs Pyper described Celia as ‘a force of nature’ and said she was ‘amazing’.
She added: “This is a really high profile, important day. The British Empire Medal is one of Her Majesty’s most favourite honours because it comes from the community. It really is a tremendous achievement.”
Three of Celia’s class regulars in Worthing nominated her for the honour and the award was made for services to the community in Worthing.
In the citation read by Deputy Lieutenant John Barclay, Celia was said to be ‘living proof that age is no barrier to fitness’.
She was at the forefront of the Popmobility programme when it came into being in the 1970s and Celia would often be teaching classes of up to 300 people at a time.
She still remembers more than 1,000 different routines and organises Popmo weekends in Bournemouth, where the Worthing group meets with another group from London.
Making the nomination, the three friends said: “She continues to take classes regularly and the sessions are as vigorous, enthusiastic and physically demanding as ever.
“She shows no signs of slowing down and is a true inspiration to others with a loyal and devoted following of people of all ages who use her classes to keep fit.”
Many remember the time in 2008 when she fought to keep her classes, having been given bombshell news the day before her 70th birthday that she would have to give them up. Celia appealed and Worthing Borough Council reversed its decision.
Through Popmobility, Celia has raised significant amounts of money for various charities and regularly sells homemade produce and plants, giving the proceeds to two disabled brothers who live locally and whose grandmother attends Celia’s classes.
Friends from West Tarring Allotments were among those at the award ceremony.