'Substantial' donation by widow helps Sutton hospice get through pandemic

A sizeable donation, left in the will of a 96-year-old widow, has alleviated fundraising problems for a Sutton hospice during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 12:04 pm
Staff at work at the John Eastwood Hospice in Sutton.

The John Eastwood Hospice on Mansfield Road has endured a year of turmoil, losing much of its ability to raise money, promote its work or keep its charity shops open.

However, it has been overwhelmed by the generosity of Mansfield woman Beryl Jeffrey, who had no children and so decided to bequeath most of her estate to the hospice.

The exact amount of money donated has not been disclosed. But it has been described as "a significant sum” and “a substantial legacy”.

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Benefactor Beryl Jeffrey, pictured in her younger days.

Sharon Williams, chief executive of the hospice, said: “Beryl may never know the true impact that her legacy has had on the hospice.

"Many times this Covid year, we have thanked her.”

The hospice provides specialist palliative care that allows terminally-ill people to live their remaining days in comfort and dignity.

As a registered charity, it relies on fundraising and donations to survive, and freely admits it needs £450,000 a year to function.

So who was Beryl Jeffrey and why did she leave such a large amount to the hospice?

Her friend, Fred Freeman, one of the executors of her will, said: “Beryl was a very private person.

"When I first read her will, it came as a huge surprise to realise she’d accumulated so many savings.

"She was a very frugal person, not spending anything on upgrading the home she had lived in for the last 44 years."

Beryl was born in Awsworth in 1922, the daughter of a miner, Timothy Granger, who won medals for bravery in the First World War. She joined the Land Army at the age of 20 and served until 1946 when she married her husband, Joe, who worked at Ollerton Colliery.

After a few years, the couple moved to Currie, near Edinburgh, before returning to Mansfield in 1977 after Joe retired from his job with the Coal Board.

Fred said: “Beryl was a woman who loved life and lived for her friends.

"She was very bright, always smartly dressed and very elegant.

"She enjoyed golf and bridge, and was fiercely competitive. She was also a keen gardener and loved holidays, going on several cruises.”

After the death of her husband, Beryl remained very sociable. Even at the age of 94, she bought a new car to help maintain her independence.

Fred laughed: "I was amazed to see that she had three points on her driving licence because she had been caught speeding in 2013, at the age of 90!"

Beryl did not spend time at the hospice. Instead, in her later years, she was cared for by friend and neighbour Terry Butler who, according to Fred, became “like a son to her”.

But Fred added: “My mother spent her last ten days at the hospice. Beryl would have been happy to know that her legacy was going towards supporting a truly special place, caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

As a result of her generosity, the hospice has been able to spend almost £300,000 to carry out much-needed maintenance and improvements to its building.

This includes a new boiler system and the refurbishment of the hospice day room and patient and family areas.