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13 November 2014

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You are in: Suffolk > Faith > Features > Sue Ryder remembered

Sue Ryder remembered

A plaque has been unveiled in Cavendish to pay tribute to the outstanding charitable work by two of the village's residents, Sue Ryder and husband Leonard Cheshire.

Sue Ryder with Sister Maria

Ryder & Holocaust survivor Sister Maria

On one hand Cavendish is a pretty picture postcard village in Suffolk, on the other it was home to two people who dedicated their lives to the 'relief of suffering'.

Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire both left an international legacy of charitable work, establishing care homes and support centres worldwide, but home for the couple and their two children was for many years in Cavendish.

Now a lasting memorial to their humanitarian work, in the shape of a special plaque has been unveiled at the parish church in the village.

"It seemed appropriate to have a lasting memory to them both, because they were remarkable people," said Canon John Rankin.

"We wanted to keep it really very simple, with their names and the inscription which is part of the prayer which they jointly wrote:

"Thou hast called us, O Lord, and we have found Thee;
In the poor, the unwanted and the suffering;
And there we will serve Thee;
Unto death."

The specially commissioned work was dedicated by both the local Anglican Bishop the Right Reverend Nigel Stock and his Roman Catholic counterpart the Right Reverend Michael Evans in April 2009.

Sue Ryder's legacy

Sue Ryder has been described as an exceptional figure of the 20th Century. She was born in Yorkshire in 1923 and served with the Special Operations Executive, co-ordinating resistance work in Germany and occupied Europe.

But she is better remembered for her work after the war. After volunteering to work with refugees in Europe, she eventually opened her first home, St Christopher's in Germany.

Plaque dedicated to Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire

Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire's plaque

It was designed as a haven for the people she had met whilst working in the country, many of whom were survivors of the concentration camps.

Today Sue Ryder Care, a charity established in her name, operates more than 80 homes worldwide caring for people with life changing illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington's disease and brain injuries.

Margaret Kurtz worked alongside Sue Ryder for 11 years in Cavendish, but said it was a fortunate incident that lead to her employment.

"I happened to walk in when my nephews and nieces were watching television. I saw a picture of Group Captain Cheshire and Sue Ryder getting married in India, and it just inspired me, though I'd never heard of her really, that I had to go work for her.

"I wrote at once, I was offered an interview, I went to London and met Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder at Market Mews, which was the headquarters of the Cheshire Foundation.

"Leonard Cheshire had a very, what shall I say, sense of humour and he made one of his jokes which I failed to understand. So I thought 'I couldn't possibly get this job'.

"But it so happened that Sue Ryder was looking for a nursing sister to look after the first patients who were due to come from the displaced persons camp in Germany, so that's how I came to work at the Sue Ryder home."

And Margaret explained that for Sue Ryder, charity literally started at home.

"They lived in the flat upstairs - it was Sue Ryder's own house you see. Her mother gave it to the newly set up foundation which at the time was called the Forgotten Allies Trust."

Sue Ryder died in 2000, eight years after her husband Leonard who had also dedicated his life's work to serving others.

Leonard was born in 1917 in Oxfordshire and after university joined the RAF as a student, before serving in Bomber Command and being awarded the Victoria Cross.

When the war was over Leonard Cheshire's first act was to set up a community for ex servicemen and women.

Although it didn't last he was asked to care for one of the community members who was dying of cancer and had nowhere else to go.

Leonard Cheshire

Leonard Cheshire

Others, too, asked for his help and eventually he founded a charity which cares for people with disabilities worldwide.

Leonard Cheshire died from the effects of Motor Neurone Disease in 1992.

Canon John Rankin said he's been overwhelmed by the reaction to the plaque.

"People were very positive about it, but what I didn't realise was how wide their involvement worldwide is.

"We were encouraged to advertise what we were doing in The Tablet and we've had a response and donations from different parts of the world, which is very encouraging."

last updated: 09/04/2009 at 16:37
created: 09/04/2009

Have Your Say

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Els Tompkins
I was so happy to read about the plaque in Cavendish Church honouring 2 great people. I too work for Sue Ryder Care, alongside Sue Doe, in the legacies and history team and would so very much like to hear from anyone with memories of Sue Ryder so these stories can be added to the Charity's archive to serve as inspiration to others that follow us without the priveledge of having met Sue Ryder or worked alongside her. If you can help please do contact either of us.

Sue Doe
Thank you so much for putting this piece on your website. I worked for the Sue Ryder Foundation now Sue Ryder Care for 20 years and retired last January. Part of my work was as one of Lady Ryder's Personal Assistants which was a real privilage. I am now a Sue Ryder Care volunteer. I have done so many different things for this wondeful charity I am so grateful that this plaque is a lasting memory in Cavendish Church of an amazing couple. Next year on the 3rd July 2010 a blue plaque will be put on the house where Sue Ryder grew up in Scarcroft Yorkshire.

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