Tributes paid to Rowans fundraiser Vicky

Vicky Handford
Vicky Handford

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Thanks to a lifetime of tireless fundraising to help get a hospice in Portsmouth, the memory of Vicky Handford will live on for generations.

Gladys Victoria Handford – who was better known as Vicky – was part of a key group of nurses that first raised the idea of having a hospice in the Portsmouth area.

Mrs Handford, 80, passed away last month.

Her funeral is due to take place at Portchester Crematorium today.

Her family and a close friend have spoken to The News, to celebrate the life of such a key player in The Rowans Hospice story.

Her daughter Marilyn Gordon, 60, of Cams Bay Close, Fareham, says: ‘Mum was a very forthright kind of person and would gear everybody up.

‘She brought energy into the lives of people and was the life and soul of the party.

‘And The Rowans was so close to her heart – she said she wants any donations made at her funeral to go to the hospice.’

Born and bred in Portsmouth, Mrs Handford went to the former Church Street School in Portsmouth.

She then went on to working in a corset factory, before she met and married her first husband Bill Cobb.

Together they had four children.

During that time, Mrs Handford began working as an auxiliary nurse at Emsworth Cottage Hospital and St James’s Hospital in Portsmouth, before starting at the Somers Town Health Centre.

It was here that Mrs Handford travelled with a team of nurses to London to witness the care received at a hospice.

Christine Banergee, of Tower House, Clarendon Road, Southsea, who is a trustee of The Rowans, worked with Mrs Handford for a decade.

Mrs Banergee worked as a nursing officer at the health centre.

She says: ‘Vicky was totally dedicated.

‘She was very caring, not only to the patients, but to their families as well.

‘Nothing was too much trouble and she would always go the extra mile.

‘She really was a good person. She never refused any work and would always volunteer for things.’

The nurses visited St Christopher’s Hospice in 1972 and saw first-hand the palliative care given.

‘We as nurses were taught to care for people,’ adds Mrs Banergee.

‘And seeing the work that went on at the hospice reinvigorated us I suppose.

‘We came back to Portsmouth with an idea to set one up in the area.’

At the time the closest hospice was the Countess Mountbatten Hospice, in Southampton.

And although initially met with opposition, the idea for the Portsmouth Area Hospice took off.

The name was later changed to The Rowans Hospice, after the rowan tree, which is often seen as a magical and welcoming tree in mythology.

‘We did all sorts to raise the money,’ says Mrs Banergee.

‘We were all so dedicated, even with full-time jobs and raising a family, we still spent as much time as possible fundraising.

‘We had people knitting things to sell on, nurses doing fashion shows, and even took a dip in the sea on Boxing Day.

‘We all wanted to have a hospice so badly.’

Mrs Handford’s passion for fundraising spread to her family, and her second husband Geoffrey Handford.

Her daughter Julia Hoggarth, 58, of Kings Road, Hayling Island, recalls: ‘We were always getting roped in to helping out.

‘But that’s just the way mum was, she got everybody going with things.

‘The day the hospice was built she was so happy.

‘Mum lost both her parents when she was 10, and she saw people close to her pass away.

‘I think that’s why she got in to caring, that’s the sort of person she was – always helping others.’

And despite suffering two major heart attacks and having a transplant, at the age of 62, Mrs Handford still carried on.

Aside from fundraising, Mrs Handford was a keen singer and enjoyed sewing.

Julia, a carer, says: ‘She loved to sing – she even carried her own microphone with her.

‘One of her favourite songs is Crazy by Patsy Cline.

‘It may seem like an odd choice, but that’s the last song we will play at the funeral.’

A memorial service is also due to take place today in Nicholson Gardens, in Boarhunt Close, Landport, where Mrs Handford lived.

She is survived by 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Rowans tribute

THE chief executive of The Rowans Hospice has paid tribute to key fundraiser Vicky Handford.

Ruth White describes her as ‘instrumental in establishing a hospice in Portsmouth’.

She says: ‘The Rowans Hospice is very sad to learn of the death of Vicky Handford.

‘Vicky was instrumental in establishing a hospice for Portsmouth.

‘Working with her fellow nursing colleagues at Somers Town Health Centre, she felt very strongly that Portsmouth should have its own hospice and campaigned tirelessly for this to happen.

‘In fact she dedicated her life to the hospice movement.

‘Vicky was selfless and despite her own ill health continued to battle for people to take notice of her plight.

‘Once the authorities accepted the need for a hospice for the Portsmouth area, she continued to push for the idea to become a reality and continued to fundraise for The Rowans Hospice until she died.

‘We feel very privileged to have known Vicky and to have had her as part of The Rowans Hospice family.’

In the past year 367 patients have had help from the hospice.

More than 300 people, aged from 19 to 101, have been supported through the Dorothy’s Dream hospice at home pilot service.

The campaign backed by The News, was to raise £1m in order to help people to pass away peacefully at home, if they wish to.

Various fundraisers take place throughout the year, such as the Moonlit Memories Walk.