A former Royal Air Force engineer who has volunteered for 26 years at Weston Hospicecare has retired.

Syd Brailey (pictured centre), aged 90, was responsible for managing the service of radio and radar equipment during his time with the RAF and at one stage led a team of 40 people.

He moved to the force’s base in Locking from Lincolnshire in the 1970s before his wife became ill in 1992 and the best part of a three-decade journey with the hospice started.    

Syd said: “When my wife was ill a nurse from the hospice came to see her and she was a great comfort.

“A year after my wife died I retired from work and presented myself to the hospice and became a volunteer.

“To start with, I remember taking collection boxes along to all the hotels on the seafront and collected them to take the money to the bank.

“I used to repair wheelchairs and take beds out to people. The hospice had a day care unit before an inpatient unit so I would also go out to pick patients up and bring them in by 10am and then at 4pm we’d arrive again to take them home.

“I then became a volunteer companion and went to sit with patients and their families in their own homes.

“There was a particular patient I visited for five years before he died and we really got along and we shared similar interests.”

Syd’s companionship was valued by all the family and he was even given the privilege to attend a major family occasion.

He continued: “After he died, his daughter got married. Amanda Gough (Community Nursing Team manager) and I were invited to the wedding and we were top table guests!”

The RAF veteran looked after more than 50 patients as a voluntary companion supporting those with life-limiting illnesses.   

Syd said he has lost count of how many miles he has covered over the years but he insisted on paying the bill out of his own pocket.

He said: “I didn’t like to claim mileage but on one occasion I was told to claim my outstanding mileage which came to more than £300.

“In those days you could gift aid amounts over £300 so with the money I received with gift aid, I donated it back to the hospice.

“The rate for gift aid then was roughly 32% so the hospice gave me £300 and they received in the region of £400 back.” 

The hospice’s director of patient services John Bailey says Syd’s service is admirable and he will be missed.

He said: “Syd has been a volunteer for 26 years and would have been longer, but we suggested he did not volunteer the first year after his wife died.

“He has been here the whole time I have worked at the hospice and when I worked as a nurse in the community Syd visited the same patient as I did as a volunteer sitter.

“When I visited, the wife said that when Syd was there it allowed her to go out, but on her return he had done all the ironing and had made a meal, the wife said she had never been show so much love from the outside the family. Syd just said, ‘well, the patient fell asleep’.

“This is the nature of the man and we will miss him volunteering for us.”

The charity relies upon the invaluable work of 700 active volunteers to help keep the cost of hiring staff down across all departments. This means extra funds are available to help support those with life-limiting conditions.

Syd was visited the hospice on 15th April to say farewell to hospice staff members and volunteers. Many of whom he has worked alongside.

To express an interest in volunteering for Weston Hospicecare email volunteer@westonhospicecare.org.uk or call 01934 423900.    

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