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Angela Russell-Smith

Selflessness personified,’ according to all who knew her, Berkhamsted School teacher, Angela Russell-Smith was a pivotal player in turning the Hospice dream into a reality. 

She co-ordinated the sale of retail and donated goods throughout the 1980’s and 90’s and as a devoted member of the Catholic church in Berkhamsted, galvanised huge support from fellow church-goers and the Franciscan nuns at St Francis House. 

From 1990-2004, following her retirement from teaching, she made the Hospice her top priority, leading the organisation as Chair of ‘Council’ (now the Board), responsible for doing much to ‘professionalise’ the Hospice, including appoint our well-loved and respected Medical Director from 1997-2015, Dr Ros Taylor.

Eighty-three-year-old Mary Rattee, who was a member of the original Working Group and a key member of the Bazaar Group with Thelma Childs, recalls: “Maybe the greatest asset we had in the early days was Angela Russell-Smith, who was great friends with Pam Macpherson. She did so much and inspired the town to get involved.

Pam (second from left) and Angela Russell-Smith (far left) Gazette 23.10.81

“She managed to get estate agents to let us have an empty shop for six weeks (twice), which we used for putting and selling anything anyone could bring in. Thelma and I did this with many willing, devoted helpers. Any goods thought valuable, including some silver I remember Angela buffing up with a lemon, Angela would take along to the auction. It was a case of getting what you could for whatever you could! We always believed she managed to get away with no commission!”

Angela’s daughter Jacky Madel, who moved from Chesham to Somerset several years ago, confirms this: “After retiring as a teacher, the Hospice was her life,” recalls Jacky. “The house was always full of things on the go for Hospice sales, whether events where we’d go and put up a gazebo at Berkhamsted Castle for her stall, or for delivery to Tring Auction where they charged her zero commission because it was for the Hospice. She also dealt with an antique shop for some items of greater value, who’d give an opinion. 

“Her enthusiasm was endless and her energy boundless. My greatest recollections are that her home in North Road, Berkhamsted, was always a hive of activity – she was always mending, making, sewing or recycling strange collections into something saleable for the Hospice. Her fingers were never idle. She didn’t drive herself but always managed to get the help she needed for moving goods about.

“In the early days at Shrublands Road, Mummy spent a great deal of time sorting out the donated items in the garage or managing to get freebies so that stationery didn’t need to be bought for the office – nothing was wasted and everything put to some good use or value.

Angela Russell-Smith celebrating her 80th birthday

Sadly Angela died in 2001 at the age of 82, as plans to find a new site were well underway. “She had hoped to see the new Hospice a reality but sadly it was not to be,” says Jacky. “Ros Taylor gave a eulogy on behalf of the Hospice which was wonderful and much appreciated and there were over 200 people at her funeral – family, friends, past pupils and hospice friends.

“A past pupil of St Hilda’s, a small boarding school in Somerset, where Mummy taught for over 20 years before moving to Berkhamsted in her 50’s, wrote to me after she died and I think it sums up much of Mummy. It said: ‘Your mother had a very powerful personality. She created a very positive impression, and I think everyone she dealt with wanted to impress her. She somehow managed to be absolutely normal and at the same time quite remarkable.  While everyone else had their heads in the clouds waiting for inspiration she was busy getting on with it.’

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