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Thelma Childs

Thelma Childs and Mary Rattee ran our first pop-up shop, which opened in May 1980 at the site on Berkhamsted High Street where Aitchisons estate agents is now, making an incredible profit of £1,849 in six-weeks.

Mother-of-four Thelma lived on Gaveston Drive, Berkhamsted for 34 years and like many of her fellow Hospice volunteers, was in her 50’s when she first got involved.

She and Mary, were good friends and kept very much in touch. They were key members of the very first Hospice Bazaar group, devoting their time to creating and making everything from toys, teddies and knitwear to jam, marmalade and patchwork quilts in a bid to raise funds to found the Hospice.

Thelma told us, in her own words, about her memories of those early days. 

“I can still remember Mary walking into that first pop-up shop one day and offering to help. She was very reliable."

“We used to sell anything and everything,” recalled Thelma, who moved to Bristol four years ago to live with her son and his family. “The main things we made were patchwork quilts, baby cardigans and children’s and adult’s knitwear, hundreds of pounds of blackberry and apple jam, which one man used to buy by the boxful to ladle on his toast, and marmalade.

“Angela Russell-Smith used to keep her eyes open and if a shop became empty we used to badger them to get them to let the Hospice have it for however long they could. Anything of any value, like lace, Angela would take to London for people to value and give her a price.

Originals reunion at SGL 2010 res

“We also had Snowball Coffee Mornings until everyone was fed up with coffee but people thought the Hospice was a great idea. They’d been coping on their own, trying to look after a family member and to have a place where that family member could go just for a morning and give their carers a break was very important.

“Pam Macpherson started it all with the coffee mornings and it went from there. She knew the nuns in the convent in Shrublands Road when the Hospice was first set up and they allowed her to have an office there. I used to go across and listen to the messages and pass them on to Pam. She employed a nurse and sent her to various patients to look after them.

“I remember in the early days before the Hospice opened its first beds in 1986, Pam went to sit with a lady who was in her early 30’s with two boys of about seven or eight in Potten End. She was with her overnight and the lady said there were two things she regretted that she’d never done – one was learning to swim and the other was learning to crochet.

“Pam said that she couldn’t teach her to swim in the middle of the night but she could teach her how to crochet and so they spent the night crocheting together and the next day the lady could crochet. Later that same day the lady died.

“That was so typical of Pam. She would always go out of her way to help anybody if someone needed help. I didn’t drive but she would pay for a taxi for me or other people to go and sit with people so they had company.

“She was completely dedicated to the Hospice. She was motivated by thinking of ways to help people who couldn’t help themselves, people who needed help at a time in their lives even if the outcome wasn’t good.

“She had this presence and was able to talk to anybody without any guise whether it was someone important or your average Joe Bloggs.

“She would have been amazed to see what the Hospice has become now from what she started 40 years ago – if it hadn’t been for Pam I feel sure there wouldn’t have been a Hospice and I’m proud of the small part I played for 10 years on its incredible journey.”

Sadly Thelma passed away on the 14th January 2020 at Bristol Infirmary.

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