Ellenor Helped Me Say Farewell To My Hero Father
Ellenor Helped Me Say Farewell To My Hero Father

ellenor Helped Me Say Farewell to my "Hero" Father

When Jenny Turners’ father was admitted to the ellenor hospice with terminal cancer, her world fell apart. Her dad Alan had always been such an inspiration and a support to her that she couldn’t imagine life without him.

She said: “None of us can get over the loss of such a great man; we are all heartbroken. My dad was literally my hero.”

Retired firefighter Alan was in the Northfleet hospice for the last four days of his life -- with Jenny, her sister Michelle and mum Linda by his side.

Jenny said: “We couldn’t thank ellenor enough for what they did for us. I was so relieved when he was transferred there from the hospital. We would have been lost without the hospice.”

Jenny, who works front of house at the Cygnet Leisure Centre in Northfleet, contacted ellenor again recently as she wanted to talk about her dad and tell the world what a special person he was.

“There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for anyone,” she said. “His nickname was Big Al, and everyone loved him. He was such a caring man. He was a true legend – one of the old school gentlemen.

“He had a beautiful upbringing in Sidcup and that carried on through to me and my sister. His whole life revolved around my mum and us kids. That’s all he ever wanted.

“He was a London Firefighter and growing up with a fireman dad was amazing. We loved all the stories he would tell of saving people’s lives.”

Alan spent his retirement taking Linda on days out and playing golf with his best mates Colin and Roy.

Jenny said: “Dad was the person you would invite to the party. He was really funny, and he was such an active person. He was always out on his bike, stopping off at Nell’s Café in Gravesend with his friends Roy, Alan, Dave and Malcolm.”

Alan was also a dedicated gardener, creating a Japanese garden at the family home in Gravesend, and more recently building a beautiful outdoor space for granddaughter Talesha.

Jenny said: “During his early days in the fire service, he was based on the boats in London Greenwich, then Gravesend and then in Downham London, and he loved the water. One of his other loves was to go fishing – sea and river. He also loved his pints at The Gravesend Boat!”

Alan was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer four years before he died.

“He was such a strong person, and he was determined not to let the cancer beat him,” said Jenny. “For a few years he was able to carry on being really active. But about seven months before he died, they discovered a shadow on his liver. He started to deteriorate very fast and ended up in Darenth Valley Hospital with an infection.”

Alan was transferred from there to the ellenor hospice for end-of-life care.

Jenny said: “They were amazing, so caring and always checking up on us. I remember us watching the England final game with him, lying on the bed with him and the nurses coming in and out – it was a great atmosphere and we kept singing to him.”

While Alan was in the hospice, his family was able to share meals with him and he was delighted that French windows led straight from his room into ellenor’s secluded garden. Jenny also enjoyed strolls outdoors, finding comfort in ellenor’s little fairy garden.

A lovely surprise for Jenny was to find that Lesley Gould, who belongs to her own church, St Mary’s in Gravesend, is also a volunteer chaplain for ellenor.

“She came into dad’s room a lot and we had prayers together,” said Jenny. “She helped us with the funeral with mum and took the service. His funeral was wonderful. There were more than 100 people there and firemen from the Northfleet Fire Service lined up outside.”

Alan died on July 13, a week before his 75th birthday, leaving his wife and children devastated. Since then, Alan’s wife Linda has taken up ellenor’s offer of counselling.

Jenny said: “I was very close to my dad. He was my rock and I miss him each and every day – life is hard without him.

My mum really finds that the counselling helps. She met dad when he was 17 and she was just 15. From the age of 15 she was with my dad every day. They never argued and it’s like they were soul mates.”

Although Jenny admits she and the rest of the family are dreading the first Christmas without her dad, it gives them comfort to know they have a leaf on ellenor’s memory tree dedicated to Alan. They have also donated to ellenor’s annual Lights of Love, where a light on the charity’s much-loved Christmas tree will be dedicated to him.

The Turner family was already aware of the services offered by ellenor as Alan’s own mother Josephine had died there 10 years earlier.

Jenny still visits her dad’s grave every day but is looking forward to spending Christmas with her mum, her daughters Talesha, 25, and Rhianna, 15, and her partner of six years Mark.

She said: “I’m glad that Dad saw me happy. I always knew I would have to say goodbye to him one day, but I thought he would live to be a little old man, but he was still digging holes in the garden almost until the end!

“I definitely want to stay connected with ellenor. I don’t know what people around here would do without them. My aunt has been donating ever since my grandmother died there 10 years ago and I’d like to take part in events like the Twilight Walk. There’s no doubt in my mind that I will always do what I can to help ellenor after all they did to help us.”