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June Shepherd

In the early 1980s, Canon Richard Norburn’s vision for a hospice in West Suffolk captured the heart of long-standing Hospice supporter June Shepherd, and in the years that have followed, June has shown unwavering support for St Nic’s, in a number of ways, including her role as Chair and Secretary of the Rickinghall Area Hospice Fundraisers (RAHOF).

RAHOF’s efforts have seen thousands of pounds raised for the Hospice, and their support, which continues to this day, spans more than 30 years. Their dedication means awareness of the Hospice, its purpose, and its services continue to be highlighted across the community.

So, where did it all begin?

June recalls: “I remember reading in the Bury Free Press that Canon Richard Norburn wanted to start a hospice in West Suffolk. I was already interested in the hospice movement, and I thought what a good idea it would be to have a hospice in West Suffolk and what a worthwhile thing it would be to have.

“We didn’t have a hospice in Suffolk, so St Nicholas would be the first. I knew then that I wanted to be involved.”

First steps into fundraising

Although fundraising isn’t the only way June has supported St Nic’s, the start of her journey with St Nic’s can be traced back to a Christmas carol evening in 1984.

“We used to have a carol evening in the house we lived in in Redgrave every Christmas. It would be a lovely evening of carols and readings, and we always held it to support local charities and causes.

“So in 1984, we held it in aid of the Hospice, and it raised £183, which in 1984 was quite a lot of money.”

After the event, June visited the Hospice’s home at the time, which was in Turret Close, which it had just moved into, and with lots of building work going on, she did have to avoid a few hazards.

She said: “There was a lot of work going on, lots of noise, lots of mess, and I remember going up the stairs to the office, and I had to be careful where I walked.

“I had to walk over a gap in the floor, and I could see the hall below. Joy Blake, who was the first secretary, called out ‘mind where you walk’. They were putting new floorboards down. If it had been today, they probably wouldn’t have let me in the building.”

Skills put to good use

Shortly after, June’s professional skills as a journalist and expertise in shorthand caught the attention of Joy Blake, the Hospice’s first secretary.

June remembers: “I can’t really remember how it happened, but Joy picked up that I had shorthand and worked in journalism. She said that they were looking for a voluntary secretary for the Hospice’s council and could I help.

“The first council had around 100 members, and I said, ‘Of course, I don’t mind doing that.’ So I was the voluntary secretary for that first council, and I got to know its workings well.

“While attending the council meetings, I realised there wasn’t a fundraising group between Bury and Thetford, so I put my thinking cap on. I thought, I know lots of people in the local area, the WI (Women’s Institute) and the Wives Group, so I asked them if they’d join me in a fundraising group, and they said yes.”

Joining the Board

In 1990, someone proposed for June to become a member of the Hospice’s Board of Trustees, which she did for around ten years.

June explains: “I really enjoyed my time on the board; it was interesting.

“I was on the board when the then Prince Charles visited. When he came, there was much excitement. He’d been at the service to celebrate the new tower at the cathedral, and then he came on to the Hospice. It was exciting, and everyone was smiling. Charles spoke for about half an hour without notes, and everyone just listened. It was quite a moment.

“During my time on the board, we also had extensions to the building, to the ward, and it really was exciting to see those changes.

“I think being on the board gave me an idea of how the whole Hospice worked. I used to go into the day Hospice and help in there, and sometimes I’d sit in the fundraising department and help them; on the ward, although I wasn’t a nurse, I could help by changing water jugs, taking the post, anything really to help.”

As much about friendship as fundraising

In 1989, the Rickinghall Area Hospice Fundraisers (RAHOF) was born out of June’s idea to bring the villages of Wattisfield, Rickinghall, Botesdale, Redgrave, Wortham and Burgate together along with some supporters in Diss to raise funds for St Nic’s.

The group, consisting of representatives from each village, has been instrumental in fundraising and raising awareness for St Nicholas Hospice Care.

“With raising funds for St Nicholas, or any hospice, it is important that you get people to understand that it will always be an ongoing need. It’s not like raising funds, say, for a church steeple. You raise the money, and you get the steeple. The Hospice will always need to be supported, and funds will always need to be raised, and you need to keep up the momentum and the interest.

“With RAHOF, as well as raising money with events, we also tried to raise awareness; we’ve always said that we are fundraising and friend-raising for St Nic’s.

“The function of hospices was not too well known then, and we wanted to change that. Once a year, we would have an open evening, and we would have a speaker from the Hospice, and we’d call them Know Your Hospice Evenings.

“We’ve done everything in the last 35 years: sponsored golf days, a sponsored piano marathon when a lady came and played the piano for ten hours non-stop, coffee mornings, I used to host a cream tea in my garden with a wind band. We’d have tents up, and more than 100 people came.

“We’ve had celebrity lunches with PD James, David Batty and several people from the Antiques Roadshow. We still run a popular annual quiz. We’ve had jumble sales, good as new sales, and auctions of promises; in 34 years, we must have raised a lot of money.

“The valuable thing about a group like RAHOF is that it keeps the Hospice name in the public. Everything we do, I always make sure that it is clear that it is for St Nicholas Hospice and that they know what the Hospice is doing.

“It is rewarding because you meet some wonderful people.”

Dedicated people

Over the years, June has met and spoken to countless people connected to the Hospice, including those who were there in the charity’s early days, of which she has fond memories.

June explains: “Richard (Canon Norburn) really was inspirational, and it was a great loss for the Hospice when he died. Richard is irreplaceable; he was a very unique man; he was like everyone’s father, and I am extremely fond of Joyce (Norburn) too; she is such a lovely person.

“Lady Miriam Hubbard was just delightful. She was such an auntie figure, and everyone loved her. She was just so lovely and approachable. I think the Hospice has been fortunate always to have had loveable people.

“My experience of the Hospice has always been that they are dedicated people. They don’t just give 100 per cent; they give 110 per cent. They don’t just do their job; they do so much more.”

It isn’t a place you go to die

One of the things June enjoys when visiting the Hospice’s Hardwick Lane site is a walk in the garden.

“It is wonderful. It is so peaceful,” she says.

“There is always a warm atmosphere at the Hospice. Richard and I always used to say it’s a positive place. It’s amazing.

“One of the philosophies I like to repeat is that the Hospice isn’t a place where you go to die. It is where you go to live until the end of your life.

“Recently, I had someone who I wanted to join the RAHOF committee. She wanted to visit the Hospice first, so I arranged for her and myself to go in and spend some time there. We spent a couple of hours there, and then when I was driving her home, she said to me, ‘I do things with my heart, and after a few hours at St Nicholas Hospice, my heart is engaged. The Hospice spoke to my heart, and I’ll join RAHOF.’

“And I think that says a great deal and is really rather lovely.”

Upcoming RAHOF events

Having already raised £680 with their we raised £680 “Did You Jive in ’55″ on April 20, below are details for upcoming RAHOF events, which you can support. 

Saturday, September 7th

Autumn Sale of Bags, Bakes & Books – A “serendipity” sale where you might just find that special thing! At Botesdale Village Hall from 10am – 1pm. Coffee/tea/light refreshments available, plus a there will be a draw.

Saturday, October 12th

Popular Annual Quiz – at Hinderclay Village Hall, 7pm for 7.30pm start. Tables of 6. Quizmaster – Victoria Curry. Admission by ticket only. Note: Please bring your own Drinks and favourite glasses. Tickets £9 pp. Popular Draw plus Christmas Free Range Turkey draw.

Friday, December 6th


“A Christmas Evening” – Seasonal miscellany of community carols, readings and fun with RAHOF’S special non-alcoholic punch and delicious mince pies. All Saints Church, Redgrave, 7.30pm start. Tickets are £9 each. A happy way to start your Christmas Festivities.