Apr 4 2011 By Siba Matti
Len Turner, 92, is the first person to be nominated for this year's Local Heroes awards
A DEVOTED pensioner who has spent almost 20 years volunteering for a hospice in Northwood has been recognised for his efforts.
Len Turner, 92, is the first person to be nominated for this year's Local Heroes awards, run jointly by the Uxbridge Gazette and Leader Series, and Uxbridge College.
Mr Turner, who lives in Northwood, has been put forward for the Community Champion category based on his contribution to Michael Sobell House hospice, which offers specialist palliative care for people with life-limiting illnesses.
Mr Turner began volunteering at the hospice, based at Mount Vernon Hospital, in 1992, when his beloved wife of 50 years, Betty, sadly passed away. After her death, he was visited by MSH counsellor, Paddy Reynolds, who mentioned in passing she was part of the hospice's volunteer gardening group.
The father-of-two, who has four grandchildren and two great grandchildren, was inspired to join the team and has since become a regular fixture in the gardens.
Mr Turner, a Second World War veteran, said: "I began by pushing a lawn mower around, that was my speciality, then over the years I also got involved in the hospice aviary. A man called Jack was doing it on his own so I started to help him. When he died I kept the aviary going, coming in every day to keep it clean.
"I think both the garden and the aviary are both very therapeutic and provide a wonderfully calming influence. For patients who can get out of bed for a few minutes, there is nothing they like better than watching the birds, or seeing the squirrels scampering around in the garden.
"We also put flowers boxes all along the balconies and in the summer, both visitors and able patients love going into the garden. We have won awards for our work, including from Hillingdon in Bloom."
Through his gardening work, Mr Turner says he met some very nice people, one of the most important being Stan Nichols, who was in the process of setting up a bridge club.
Mr Turner said: "Stan and I worked together to boost numbers, and a few years ago we had more than 550 members, each paying a contribution to play, which would go towards the hospice. It provided an opportunity for people to socialise and help collect money for MSH, and on average we were raising about £40,000 a year."
By popular demand, Mr Turner was made president of the bridge club about seven years ago. Although he now just a member, the club continues to successfully generate funds for MSH, with more than £100,000 raised in the past three years.
In addition, the sprightly pensioner takes responsibility for the three-mile water stop during the annual MSH sponsored walk, together with pal Jean Watson.
He also keeps noticeboards around Mount Vernon updated so staff and visitors are always aware of MSH events, and runs a raffle during plants sales. And as if that wasn't enough, Mr Turner also takes part in the annual MSH talent contest, displaying his impressive memory by reciting monologues, including If by Rudyard Kipling.
Speaking about his nomination, Mr Turner said: "I feel extremely humbled to be called a hero, although I feel the hospice has given me far more in return. If I win, I would give the prize straight to MSH. I know so many people at the hospice and I think of them as my extended family. Working here has been so satisfying and has given me a real sense of purpose - I can honestly say it has kept me alive."
Mr Turner was nominated by business manager at MSH, David Mosely, who described the pensioner as 'an inspiration'.
Mr Mosely said: "When I joined MSH about two years ago, one of the first things I remember is seeing this mower going past my office window with Len at the end of it. He is at great pains to point out that, although he is the oldest volunteer, he is not the longest serving, but I think it's truly amazing that he was in his 70s when he first joined us. He has such a joie de vivre and an indomitable spirit. I take my hat off to him."
For more information about MSH, visit www.michaelsobellhouse.co.uk/