It’s like no other, there’s a bond between everyone that transcends all races, colours or creeds.
But I had heard about Leonard and his work a few years before. In particular, in 1978, Leonard was being interviewed on the Everyman programme, ‘One Man’s Remembrance’. The film depicted his thoughts on war and peace. It also told the story of how he came to take Arthur Dykes, an ex-serviceman suffering from terminal cancer, into his home at Le Court in Hampshire, and how the charity grew. When asked if he didn’t get depressed seeing so many disabled people and so much suffering, he simply said: ‘They are calling to us to do something.’ I couldn’t get this thought out of my mind — I felt as if he was speaking to me.
My idea was to create a Cheshire Home in Jersey, where I lived after marrying a Jerseyman when I left the WRNS. I visited a childhood friend who developed MS in a hospital where she was in a ward with older people, those who were sick and dying. I saw a need for a Cheshire Home, but at first it was not possible as an ‘ask’ had to come from the community. It was deeply frustrating I couldn’t do more, and I didn’t have the experience. But every time the doubts bounced around in my head I heard Leonard’s quiet determined voice speaking to me. I had to do something.
The Jersey Cheshire Home took in its first residents on 4 January 1983.
On 25 July there was an official opening by HRH Princess Alexandra, which Leonard attended, making this special occasion doubly momentous. He had been invited to stay at Government House but preferred to be with the VIPs — the disabled people in the home. When he arrived I met him at the airport. His luggage was a briefcase and a change of suit in a large plastic bag that looked as if he’d just come from the cleaners.
The day was divided with the ceremony in the morning and a Vin D’Honneur that afternoon in St. Helier Town Hall; followed by a visit to a resident in hospital. He sat on her bed and chatted about her role as a Jersey Radio C.B. Breaker. Then he spent a half hour in prayer at the Catholic Church.
There was one other touch that made this day for me. When saying goodbye at the airport I tried to thank GC — as we all called him — for all the pleasure he had given to so many. But he just smiled, kissed me, and said emphatically: ‘No. I thank you.’
There is something very special about being part of the Cheshire Family.