A return to St Joseph’s Hospice after 45 years
By Claire Learner, PR Manager
St Joseph’s Hospice has been around for a long time (since 1905 in fact). But for one of our supporters Tony Curling, it was 45 years before he felt ready to come back to the place where his dad, Frank, spent the end of his life in 1969.
Introducing Tony’s dad
Aubrey Frank Cecil Curling (Frank) joined the 1st Battalion of the Scot’s Guards aged 14 as a Tailor Boy, and served for 5 years. When he left the army, he became a chauffeur but re-enlisted in 1939 and was awarded the Africa Star with clasps and promoted to Company Sergeant Major.
Frank survived the war and resumed civil occupation within the London Transport Organisation where he progressed to senior management/security. Throughout this period the army was still a big part of Frank’s life and he signed up as a member of the Territorial Army. He also spent a lot of time on his allotment and playing cricket, two of his great passions.
A terminal illness
Sadly in 1969 at the age of 56, Frank was diagnosed with lung cancer and as his condition deteriorated he came to St Joseph’s Hospice where his life was to come to an end a few months later.
Tony, (Frank’s son) recalls that while his Dad was apprehensive when he first arrived, as time went on he realised the seriousness of his condition and that in medical terms there was very little anyone could do. Tony recalls the pain that his dad was in, treatments weren’t very advanced then, but how well it was managed by the nurses and how well he was treated, describing it as exemplary and beyond reproach.
During his stay at the hospice, Frank was befriended by an Irish male nurse who give him special one to one care throughout, and the Sisters were always visible, a great comfort to the patients, relatives and visitors. Tony and his mum were allowed to visit outside normal visiting time and he is glad that this is still the case, because those times spent with his dad were really important.
Coming back to the hospice
On coming back to the hospice for the first time in 45 years, Tony could see the obvious physical changes to the surroundings of the hospice. What hasn’t changed for him however, is the ethos of caring and compassion. Tony was pleased to hear that there is an emphasis on respite care and day hospice facilities including arts and crafts as well as inpatient care.
Now retired and living in Frimley and happily married for 42 years, Tony is granddad to Jack aged 3 and a half. Tony still feels sad that his dad didn’t get to meet his grandsons.
Tony said, “I’m delighted that the donations I have made over the years have helped to make the improvements that we can see today. While the hospice has changed significantly since my last visit and there are lots of new services like a Day Hospice, respite care, all sorts of groups and arts and crafts, the overall feeling of warmth and kindness remains the same. I really enjoyed my visit and will definitely come back again.”
A cup of tea
Before he left St Joseph’s Hospice after his visit, Tony sat in the new Community Hub, had a cup of tea and quietly remembered his dad.