Your Memories

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of St. Joseph's Hospice

“When I was at school, Father Francis was a frequent visitor to our house. He was a real family friend! I recall vividly offering help as he prepared to go to Rawalpindi, on his first appointment. It was there that his passion for helping the dying was first ignited. That led to his lifelong work in the hospice movement. I particularly recall a key saying of Father Francis; ‘Dying is the most important step that we take’. It is so important that we help people to take that great step as well as possible. I congratulate St Joseph’s on its 50th Anniversary. May God bless your next 50 years, too.”

George Foster, Chair of Trustees 2014-2020

Maura Foster said: “My husband George was a trustee for St. Joseph’s Hospice for 9 years and was chair of trustees between 2014 and 2020.

“George was invited to be a trustee at the hospice because he had a huge amount of professional experience and a great reputation for being passionate about supporting local people. He worked in finance within the health service, and then as a lecturer in public finance at Liverpool John Moore’s University, so he had valuable experience and lots of connections, which he was only too pleased to be able to put to good use in helping to support our local community. He also spent more than three decades as a Governor and, later Chair of Governors, at St. Monica’s in Bootle.

“George was involved in appointing Mike Parr, the current chief executive of the hospice, and they developed a great working relationship and achieved a lot together.

“When George was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer, he knew straight away that he wanted to go to the hospice and I am so pleased that he spent his final two weeks there, where he received the best possible end of life care.

Mike Parr added: “Quite simply, the hospice would not still be here today if it wasn’t for George Foster. He helped the hospice through a very challenging period and was a huge support to me when I started in my role, always providing valuable advice and support. We developed a great friendship over the years and I respected him hugely. He was always looking for ways he could help others and he even used to mentor some of the carers at the hospice when studying for their exams.”

Myra Lovelady, volunteer fundraiser for 49 years

“My husband Joe and I started the 200 Club at English Martyrs Church in Litherland in 1975, in response to a fundraising appeal from Father O’Leary. Since 1975, the 200 Club has raised £80k for the hospice.

“We used to have a lot of people helping to collect all the money  for the 200 Club but they have all passed away and so I now do all the collecting myself, but I will continue to run the club as long as I am able to. Joe died in 1999 but he would be so pleased to know that the club is still going and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported me for all these years, especially those who have never won anything!

“Father was so thrilled when The Academy was built at the hospice. It was a great venue for events and Joe and I held our Ruby Wedding Anniversary there and I held my 70th birthday there too.”

Tom Davis, fundraising volunteer for 15 years

“I have known the Hospice for 40 years and indeed remember many lovely moments with its founder Father Francis O'Leary. I am a volunteer and help with the fundraising together with sponsoring a Xmas Tree.

“My father, Wilf Davis, spent 4 months in the Hospice before he passed away in 2010. The welcome myself and my sister received was always compassionate in what were very difficult times. The love, care and support we received was remarkable. Staff in all areas of the Hospice have inspired me with their devotion to duty. Nothing is too much trouble.

“St. Joseph’s Hospice will always have a special place in my heart and I shall continue to support it for the rest of my life.”

Madeline Fraser, Crosby shop volunteer for 17 years

“I originally worked in the hospice’s charity shop on Victoria Road in Crosby. I really enjoy volunteering. It is a very varied and flexible role and you can do whatever you like best. I prefer to work at the counter but others like to sort clothes at the back of the shop.

“We have a large team of volunteers here and I have made a lot of very close friends. We all socialise together and I have even been on holiday with a couple of friends from the shop. I would highly recommend volunteering to anyone.”

Abby Miles (19) from West Derby

“My dad, Paul O'Hare, joined the hospice in 2022 for end of life care. He unfortunately died in August 2023 but he was loved and cared for so well at the hospice and I am so grateful for all the love you gave my dad while he was there, thank you.”

Beverley Cannon, Hospice Finance Manager

“My mum Sybil was cared for at the hospice in 1988. My first child, and mum’s first grandchild, had been born just two weeks before. Visiting mum was priority so baby James was obviously with me during most visits. I have memories of the staff taking James to visit the other patients, leaving me to concentrate on mum.

“When visiting mum, we never knew how lucid she would be due to her illness, but I remember going one day and she told me that she had had a great night as the boss came to see her and they drank sherry and smoked endless cigarettes! I thought this must have been a dream, so asked one of the staff and was told that it had happened and that Father O’Leary would go around the hospice in the early hours to sit with patients who were struggling to sleep.

“Around 35 years ago what we now know as the fundraising office was a pub, decked out bar stools, optics, dart board and other pub games. Father O’Leary used to say that just because you are unwell, it doesn’t mean you don’t need a night out!

“My mum sadly passed away in the December 1988. Despite her only spending a short time here, it allowed me to have fond memories of her last months and I will be eternally grateful for the care both she and us as a family received.”

Clare Waller, Hospice Clinical Director

“My dad, Vincent, had multiple sclerosis and spent a lot of time in and out of hospices before he passed away when I was 14. So, as a child, I was very familiar with hospices and the amazing care they provide. My dad actually spent some time here at St. Joseph’s Hospice in 1983 so I have some vague memories of being here with him. My mum still loves coming here as it was such a special place for her and my dad, and she is very proud that I am now the clinical director here.”

Marian Banks, Inpatient Unit Manager

“I started working at the hospice in 2003. It was my first placement as a student nurse. I had never considered a career in palliative or end of life care and, when I first got the placement, I went home and cried but, on my first day I felt an immediate warmth and a feeling that I can’t really explain. I just knew that I belonged here. I spent 3 years as a healthcare assistant and then I qualified as a registered nurse in 2006 and later became a senior nurse. I was promoted to Inpatient Unit Manager in 2019.

“I have never stopped learning from day one and, over the years, I have gained further qualifications in palliative care, eventually completing modules, which converted my diploma into a degree in Adult Nursing. I have also completed my nurse prescriber and clinical diagnostic skills qualifications.

“Over the years, I have been inspired by many nursing colleagues that I have worked with at St. Joseph’s Hospice and I now lead our team of nurses and healthcare assistants.

“The level of care at St. Joseph’s is second to none and we are privileged to be able to spend more time with our patients than we would as a ward nurse in a hospital.

“Over the years, the building, grounds and people may have changed but the ethos and the excellent standard of care hasn’t changed and that is why I am still here after 20+ years.

“Clinically the hospice has had to change with the times but this has been for the better. More palliative care training courses are available now and we also benefit from the enhanced and specialist knowledge of other palliative care specialists, such as our palliative care consultant, who we see at our weekly team meetings when we discuss every patient in depth.”

Laura Hoare, Registered Nurse

“I originally trained as a mental health nurse but, after my dad was admitted to the hospice in 2014, I saw how well he was looked after and decided that I really wanted to work here. When a job came up, I applied straight away and I have been here ever since.

“I love what the hospice stands for and I feel honoured to be part of the last days and weeks of our patients’ lives. I love spending time with our patients and getting to know them, learning about the things they love and enjoy, whether it’s their favourite song or film.

“Over the years, I have developed new skills in end of life and palliative care and I have learnt a lot from all the amazing nurses here at the hospice.”

Julie O’Prey, Registered Nurse

“I came to St. Joseph’s Hospice about twenty years ago. Prior to this, I had worked in Paediatrics and Adult A&E, where not a lot of nursing care was involved.

“I decided that I wanted to be more involved in nursing care. I love nursing the patients at the hospice and also enjoy supporting their loved ones. It is a privilege to be involved and to help people at such a difficult and emotional time in their lives.

“Knowing that you have given good nursing care to the patients and emotional support to their loved ones makes a sometimes difficult job more rewarding. I find the staff to be very supportive of each other and I feel part of a special team.”

A Healthcare Assistant

“I started working at the hospice in 2002. In St Francis House Upper, there was a glass chapel in the middle, surrounded by patient rooms. There was also a library and a lounge area. In San José, there were smaller rooms downstairs and, upstairs, there were three large rooms with 2 or 3 patients in each. These rooms has curtains instead of doors. We used to take patients out on days out as we had a lot more staff back then. We would sometimes take them out shopping too.”

Jan Hornby, Healthcare Assistant

“I started working at the hospice in 1991 on a student placement. At the end of my placement, I asked Father if I could have a job and he said yes. He used to invite everyone to chapel on a Sunday and, afterwards, he would sit on a bench in the grounds talking to people.

“The role of a healthcare assistant has pretty much stayed the same, it is very hands on care. It is a very warm and friendly place to work, there is so much compassion.

“At night-time, when patients were lonely, Father would come and sit with them. His dog Mischa lived at the hospice and his other dog Sebastian also came to visit sometimes.”

Irene Williams, Healthcare Assistant

“I started working at the hospice 14 years ago, in 2009. I thought it would be a really sad place to work but I was wrong, everyone was so jolly. When I first started, The Academy still had a function room where we used to have staff parties and we would often drop in for a drink on our way home. It was a really useful facility as we could hold events, like Light up a Life, inside if it was raining outside. I remember all the patient rooms in San José were named with religious names.

“It is a very fulfilling place to work and I love being able to care for patients at the end of their life, when our care is needed the most.”

Norman Cutler, Community Fundraiser

I joined the hospice as a lottery administrator in 2005 and we used to be based in The Lodge at the entrance to the hospice, along with all the office staff. Prior to working at the hospice, I worked for the Alliance & Leicester Bank and I used my knowledge to help modernise the lottery system. All the lottery information had to be backed up by disc every Friday and we had to physically take the disc up the drive to the hospice to store it securely.

"As my role evolved and I started getting more involved with fundraising events. I used to go out to schools to sell beanie dolls and pick up collection boxes from local shops, pubs and cafes. In 2006, we started organising Midnight Walks and managed to get 600 walkers and raised about £70k in the first event!

We used to use The Academy for quizzes, discos and Christmas fairs, so it was really a useful venue for fundraising, but the hospice needed more beds and so the building was redesigned and became St. Francis House inpatient unit.

“Around 2008, we outgrew The Lodge at the top of the drive and moved to the Coach House, which was refurnished with donated office furniture. There were quite a few of us in there, a shop manager, a lottery canvasser, a lottery manager, a lottery administrator, a community fundraiser and me, I was the senior fundraiser at that time.

Christmas was always a nice time to work at the hospice as there were trees and lights everywhere and it was a great atmosphere. I remember organising a James Bond theme night at Formby Hall and we gave away an Aston Martin as the first prize in our raffle…well it was a matchbox Aston Martin but it caused a few laughs.

We always held a summer Garden Party with a Teddy Bears Picnic and Teddy Tombola and it is great to see this event is still going strong today! We always tried to keep events as affordable as possible and we tried lots of different events to keep people interested.

It was a fun place to work. It was always a very happy place to be and the team got on really well. Together, we really started to modernise the way things were done and we had a lot of freedom to try new things. We also started working with the nurses and carers more to bring the staff teams together, which worked really well.”

Anne-Marie Whittaker, Secretarial Support to the Senior Management and Fundraising Teams

“I worked at the hospice between 2002 and 2017. In 2004, I remember Cherie Blair coming to visit as she was our patron. As she was the Prime Minister’s wife at the time, her security team came the day before and then, on the day, she came bursting in to our office, which was in Our Lady’s Lodge, and she was very friendly. Around 2006, she held a fundraising reception for the hospice at Downing Street. It was £500 a ticket and there were drinks and canapés.

“There weren’t many admin staff and we worked in Our Lady’s Lodge, which is now the family support office. In The Academy, there was a large conference room, a kitchen, a bar, and a small meeting room called 'The Marukian Room', named after Mr Marukian who left the hospice £1m which helped to build The Academy. The Academy was used for NHS training as well as for Council and school events.

“The hospice was one of the best places I have ever worked and with the nicest people. I always felt the work we did was so valuable. I enjoyed meeting patients and their families, and replying to letters from people who wrote to say how kind and compassionate our nurses were. I was always very proud to work there.

“In 2011, our admin office moved upstairs in San José when the building was modernised. It was lovely working upstairs as we looked out over the lawn so we could often see pheasants, squirrels and deer. I once saw a fight between a stoat and a rabbit! It was beautiful in the winter too, with snow and the hospice Christmas tree.

“One of my favourite jobs was attending the weekly Gold Standards Framework meeting where I took the minutes. Every patient was discussed and how each family was coping. I was always so stuck with the way everyone used to talk like it was their own family member. They really cared and showed great concern. Patients would often live several months longer than they were expected to live and I was always really touched by that.

“It was a great comfort when my father-in-law went to the hospice a few years ago. He had a very peaceful end and it was wonderful to see how the hospice is still excelling in its care. The hospice has had to evolve over the years as proper funding is needed to keep it going and it is now more respected in the healthcare sector so I really hope it can continue to evolve as times change.”