The family and friends of a much-loved Hastings man who lost his battle with cancer have paid tribute to the ‘amazing’ care he received at St Michael’s Hospice, which has been named official charity partner for Priory Meadow Shopping Centre.
Steve Williams’ youngest daughter Jemma O’Gorman and friend Alan Bennett have raised a staggering £15,000 running marathons in his memory. All of the funds were donated to St Michael’s Hospice in St Leonards, where Steve was cared for in the final weeks before he passed away aged 63, on January 30, 2016.
Now Jemma, Alan, and the rest of Steve’s family have welcomed news St Michael’s Hospice has been named the official charity partner of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre for the year ahead.
The announcement is particularly emotional for Steve’s wife Dilys, who worked at Superdrug in Priory Meadow for more than a decade before she retired.
Steve and Dilys’ youngest daughter, Jemma O’Gorman, 33, raised more than £2,000 running three marathons in less than 12 months.
Teaching assistant Jemma says after her dad received his diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2014, the family knew it was a terminal illness, but staff of St Michael’s Hospice were always there for him and his whole family. She said: “Everything was personal and they gave us so much support. They spent time with dad and we were offered counselling and help when we most needed it.”
Jemma and her husband Joseph were married in August 2015 and she was so proud her dad was there to walk her down the aisle.
She said: “We had considered bringing the wedding forward due to dad’s cancer but he wouldn’t have it. He claimed we were moving the goal posts and he was determined to make it. And he did, he fought so hard but it was an impossible fight.
“We knew, normally, with that kind of tumour you had 12 to 15 months and that’s how it worked out. In 2015 he had an operation and they removed 95 per cent of the tumour but it grew back very aggressively and he had to have chemotherapy which was horrible. He also suffered a pulmonary embolism which made matters worse.”
After her dad first went into St Michael’s Hospice, Jemma decided she wanted to help fundraise by running a marathon. She said: “I did my first marathon in Brighton, and all I wanted to do was finish. I clocked a time of 5hrs 15mins. I then did the Beachy Head Marathon which is notoriously difficult.
“I did that in just under six hours. The third one was the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon which is mixed terrain including beach. That was hard. I did that in 5hrs 30mins. I’m not finished yet, although I haven’t got a marathon planned we are entering a team in the Dragon Boat Race later this year.”
Jemma said another friend of Steve’s, Michael Pankhurst, raised £3,000 with a 12-hour bounce-athon and Alan Bennett, 46, who worked with Steve at optical product firm Bausch & Lomb, raised more than £13,000.
After Steve’s death, Alan completed the Centurion Grand Slam which consists of four ultra-marathons in 12 months, to raise more than £6,500 which was match funded by his employers.
He said: “Steve was just an amazing bloke and a wonderful family man. After he was diagnosed I sat with him in the hospice and we talked very frankly and honestly. I said I wanted to do something in his name so long as his family agreed. I told him my plan of running the four ultra-marathons in 12 months and he thought I was mad but was delighted.
“We raised the £10,000 we needed to fund a Steve Williams Day at the hospice this month. That figure covers the costs of all hospice services for one day.”
Priory Meadow marketing manager Natalie Ajibade said: “Hearing Steve Williams’ heartbreaking story, and the inspirational fundraising his family and friends have achieved, shows what an asset the hospice is to Hastings and Rother. I think most people in the area have had some contact with St Michael’s Hospice or know of someone who has. It is an amazing institution and one people in this area are keen to support.”
Dilys said after her husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis, hospice staff supported not just Steve but their whole family.
She said: “They were amazing. Everyone, the doctors, nurses, volunteers everyone. We couldn’t have asked for more and they couldn’t have done anymore.
“They helped Steve come home for Christmas and the New Year. He actually wanted to die at home but it just didn’t work out, he needed to go back for the medication and to make him comfortable.
“I just can’t speak highly enough of all the staff and the dedication and compassion they showed.
“Steve was an amazing family man. His family meant everything to him. We would have been married 45 years this year. That’s the sort of man he was. He always remained positive. He used to say we have to get on with it, those were the cards he was dealt and he accepted it.”
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