The charity worker whose letter to a newspaper editor helped launch St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington has died.
Staff at the hospice said they had the privilege of caring for Yvonne Rowe in her final moments as a fitting tribute to the “amazing example of people power” she had prompted with her letter to the editor of the local newspaper group.
In 1985 Yvonne was nursing her best friend through cancer when she first heard about the hospice movement. She wrote to The Northern Echo, Darlington and Stockton Times, and Evening Despatch saying: “When chatting to a group of friends, we all thought how marvellous it would be to have a hospice in Darlington.”
The letter led to a campaign and the formation of the Darlington & District Hospice Movement charity, which at first provided home care via a team of volunteers. Later a donation by the town’s Carmelite Convent nuns resulted in the hospice’s first building, which attracted a message of support from Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Now well-known as St Teresa’s, the hospice offers the people of Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire day, in-patient and community services, and its Rapid Response Team recently became one of the first to be included as a 999/111 emergency service, which Yvonne herself used.
St Teresa’s Hospice chief executive Jane Bradshaw said:
“Yvonne was so humble, so unassuming, yet with that one letter to the editor sparked something which has helped thousands of patients and their families for more than three decades.
“She is such an amazing example of people power and even in her final days had the strength and will to help promote the hospice in a television interview.
“She was so practical; she would fundraise through arts and crafts and introduced me to so many people as she promoted St Teresa’s.
“She was knitting toys in her last week and I have a collection of the Santas she completed every Christmas – including many in different colours, one in Lurex, and another like Dennis the Menace. Only a couple of weeks ago, Yvonne gave me the one she had knitted for this year, a Santa holding up a newspaper with ‘World Cup 2018’ on it.”
Yvonne was given the hospice’s highest honour in 2000 when she was made an honorary life member. Her name will also become a permanent feature of the hospice’s new memory tree, which honours patients with a dedicated leaf on a beautiful wall sculpture.
“Yvonne really loved that tree as she thought it was such a respectful way to commemorate people. Our thoughts are with her husband Alan who has supported her in all of her ventures. Anything we asked of Yvonne, Alan was always there too.”
Chairman Harry Byrne said:
“Yvonne was the catalyst for the development of the hospice movement in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire. Despite that she remained one of the most modest and dignified people you would ever hope to meet.”
Hospice president Alasdair MacConachie also paid tribute, saying:
“A modest and in so many ways ordinary person, Yvonne achieved extraordinary things. Her enthusiasm and relentless support leaves this area with a lasting legacy in the form of one of the best hospices in the country, with an incredible staff who help countless patients and their families at their most vulnerable times. We owe Yvonne such a lot and it is so nice that we were able to look after her in a final gesture of thanks for the amazing things she did for us.”
For more information visit St Teresa’s Hospice