When friends would visit his wife Jeanette, “I’m just going upstairs” was the phrase Jim Tozer had a habit of using after he’d said hello and before he’d slip away to write, record or simply listen to his beloved music. It was typically low-key of the talented yet modest man his family remember with such deep affection.

It was following the return of oesophageal cancer and his choice not to undergo further treatment that Jim came under the care of St Luke’s, with nurse Sonja Pritchard visiting him at home in the last weeks of his life. Home was where he wanted to receive treatment so he could be with Jeanette and daughter Suzy as well as enjoying regular visits from his son and grandchildren.

Sadly, Jim died last October, aged 68, but as Jeanette and Suzy explained on a recent visit to Turnchapel, where they were joined by Sonja and Alison Beavers, the Bereavement Support Volunteer who has been alongside them, it comforts them to know Jim passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by love.

Jeanette said: “Being a nurse meant I was able to care for Jim at home, but when his condition deteriorated and he required specialist help, Sonja was amazing. She was a reassuring presence for us all.”

Listening to Jeanette speak about her husband of 31 years, and hearing from Suzy too, it is clear to see their love for Jim and the depth of loss they feel as they navigate life without him.

While she knew losing Jim would be challenging, Jeanette anticipated that her nursing career would help her cope and that she would be able to return to work shortly after his funeral, which – understandably – has not been the case. She said: “Jim was terminally ill so I knew what was coming, but losing him has been devastating. I miss him so very much.”

Fortunately, thanks to our community’s support for our charity, we are able to offer more than hands-on medical care. We provide emotional, practical and spiritual help that can make an important difference to bereaved people.

So, ever since Jeanette reached out, Alison has been there as a friendly listening ear, giving her the space to share her feelings at the pace that’s right for her.

The two have developed an easy rapport with Alison visiting Jeanette regularly and listening when Suzy needs to talk, too.

Alison said: “Our service is for anyone whose loved one was cared for by St Luke’s whether the death is recent or happened several years ago. People aren’t themselves when they’re bereaved and emotions can sometimes be confusing and distressing. Getting these feelings out into the open is important in helping them come to terms with their loss and move forward. They have the reassurance of knowing everything they tell us will remain confidential, even if we are there to support other members of the family, too.

“It’s been a privilege getting to know Jeanette and Suzy and hearing their memories of Jim. I feel almost as if I knew him.”

These memories include DIY enthusiast Jim using his skills to give Suzy’s bedroom an impressive makeover to welcome the comedian home after she’d been working away, and giving granddaughter Amy a keyboard to nurture her musical talents. Perhaps most moving of all is the memory of Jim’s sheer determination, despite his diminishing health, to make a ‘secret mission’ into town to buy his wife a diamond ring as a sign of his love and gratitude for her devotion to him.

Jeanette said: “Talking with Alison never feels hurried and it helps me remember all the happy times. We’ve listened to Jim’s music, too, which was such a huge part of his life. There are lots of tears but laughter, too, especially remembering his humour. Even when he was really ill, Jim was still joking with the nurses.”

Suzy, too, finds comfort in her precious memories of the man came who into the lives of her and her brother as ‘Uncle Jim’ but very quickly became a loving father. She said: “It was dad who bought me my first joke book, so it’s his fault my career is in comedy. And when I went abroad to work he put his own lyrics to an Elton John track for me – it was so personal and funny that I still sing it in my head.

“I felt so sad when dad was ill, but things would have been so much harder then – and now – without St Luke’s. You can’t put a price on what they provide but it’s why we’re fundraising to give something back. We’ve been so touched at people’s generosity and dad would have been, too.”

Suzy’s Just Giving page has raised £2,300 to date, for which we are very grateful. Thank you to the whole family and everyone else who has shown their support.

Ahead of the South West’s biggest men-only annual charity event on Saturday 28 March, a local man has shared the moving reasons behind his motivation for taking part for the sixth consecutive year.

As is his annual tradition, 50-year-old Martyn Hamley, a carpenter and joiner at Princess Yachts, will be joining workmates Paul Blake, Neil Bailey and Paul Parrish to participate in Men’s Day Out in aid of St Luke’s. The day of banter and rugby includes a 12km sponsored walk that starts at Plymouth Albion RFC and finishes there with a pasty, pint and not-to-be-missed match, after taking in iconic locations in Plymouth, including the Hoe and the Barbican.

As they enjoy the camaraderie of the event and stride the streets raising much-needed funds, Martyn and his colleagues will be remembering their good friend and fellow Princess Yachts employee John Helmore, an exceptional craftsman and talented athlete, who excelled in competitive cycling.

Sadly, John died of cancer in 2015 – aged just 44 – having been looked after by us at our specialist unit in Turnchapel, where the expertise and compassion of our team help people live well to the end of their lives. Taking part in Men’s Day Out, which is sponsored by IU Energy, is the foursome’s way of paying tribute to John and thanking St Luke’s for the dedication with which we cared for him.

John is also remembered by Princess Yachts, where the annual John Helmore Prize for Excellence is awarded to an outstanding member of the team.

Martyn said: “John is greatly missed. My friendship with him went way back to 1986, when we were fresh faced from school and starting our apprenticeships. He stood out from day one because he always gave a hundred per cent to whatever he did, from his work to the sports he loved.

“John was the last person you’d imagine receiving a diagnosis of cancer because he was known for his healthy lifestyle. It just goes to show that none of us know when it might be us in that situation and needing the expert care of St Luke’s. That’s why Men’s Day Out is so important – it’s an opportunity to have a great day with your mates while fundraising for such a fantastic local cause. Everyone is made welcome and there’s a really great atmosphere.”

As in previous years of doing the charity walk, Martyn and his colleagues will take a short detour to sit on John’s memorial bench in Beaumont Park, remember their friend and see how much the silver mountain ash planted in tribute to him has grown since the previous year.

Since 2015, Martyn has raised over £2,500 for St Luke’s to help our service continue making a difference.

John’s sister, Jacqui Dinmore, said: “John was a special man and is missed very much. It is very touching that his friends remember him with such fondness. Taking part in Men’s Day Out year on year is a lovely way for them to remember John while helping ensure St Luke’s support can be there for other families, too.”

Registration for Men’s Day Out is £32, which includes a t-shirt, pasty, pint and entry to the rugby match. Sign up here.

For a small island, it has a big history – as well as an exciting future – so the exclusive opportunity to set foot on Drake’s Island as part of the first organised public tour of the iconic landmark for 30 years is set to spark stiff competition!

Much-loved local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, which looks after 300 terminally ill people across the community every day – enabling them to live well to the end of their lives – is proud to have been chosen as the beneficiary of funds generated by ticket sales for the event, following a recent visit from Drake’s Island owner, Plymouth-based businessman Morgan Phillips, to its specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Just 105 places are available for the tour of the iconic landmark on Sunday 15 March, and each ticket sold will go towards helping St Luke’s reach more people who desperately need the specialist service it provides for them and their loved ones at the most vulnerable of times.

 

Director of Guardian Industrial UK, Morgan Phillips, who bought Drake’s Island last year and plans to restore it for the people of Plymouth and tourists, said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of so many in our city and its surrounding areas, including the families of some of my staff, so I was already aware of the very high quality of the care it provides.

“But when I was invited to the hospice building, where they look after patients with the most complex conditions, I saw for myself the unwavering dedication of the team and their kindness and sensitivity, which really make a difference at such a difficult time.”

Such is the interest that surrounds both the history and the future of Drake’s Island that St Luke’s is anticipating a high demand for the limited spaces available on the tour.

During its fascinating history, the Island – which was born out of the sea 400 million years ago – has been a place of pilgrimage, a refuge, a fort, a prison and an observatory, while local people of a certain age are most likely to remember it as an adventure centre in the 1960s and 70s.

With the site being out of bounds to the general public since 1989, it is a place many long to visit so they can discover its secrets and learn about its past. Those lucky enough to snap up one of the places to visit the historic location will get the opportunity to do just that as they get the lowdown from the Island’s Warden, avid historian Bob King, who will lead the tour.

Bob said: “The best part of my job is researching the history of the Island and sharing it with as many people as possible. Although the fortifications and how they have been used and defended Plymouth over the centuries is fascinating, what brings the history alive are the personal stories of the people on the Island.

“I am really excited to have the chance to take people in Drake’s footsteps and help them discover the Island and its past.”

Among the tales about the Island are those of the garrison being involved in brandy smuggling, Queen Victoria sketching the landmark while her boat was at anchor in Plymouth Sound, and the Devonport High schoolboys who ‘invaded’ in 1957 and claimed the Island for Plymouth. They were arrested by the guard, given breakfast and then taken back to Plymouth for a lesson of double maths!

St Luke’s is organising the Open Island event as an offshoot of its popular Open Gardens scheme, which sees big-hearted owners of beautiful gardens across Devon and Cornwall open their gates and welcome visitors in aid of the charity throughout spring and summer.

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator at St Luke’s, said: “Drake’s Island is an important part of Plymouth’s heritage that has been out of reach to the public for a long time. It’s heart-warming that the strong reputation of our charity has resulted in St Luke’s being selected to offer people this fantastic opportunity to step onto such an historic jewel on the cusp of its exciting regeneration.”

Tickets for the guided tour are £35 (+booking fee) per person, which includes boat transfer. They’re available from 26 February 2020 at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/opengardens. Full terms and conditions are available on the website.