Former shoe worker leaves legacy of more than £230,000 to Kettering Hospital

Janet Lambert, Patricia Gatehouse, Terry Stanley and John Gatehouse with Bernard Smith's plaque at KGH

Janet Lambert, Patricia Gatehouse, Terry Stanley and John Gatehouse with Bernard Smith's plaque at KGH

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A former Kettering shoe worker has left almost a quarter of a million pounds to Kettering General Hospital as a thank you for the many years of care his wife received for rheumatoid arthritis.

And his £238,476 legacy has bought 162 items of important medical equipment for the hospital.

Bernard Smith with wife Lilian on their wedding day in 1941

Bernard Smith with wife Lilian on their wedding day in 1941

Bernard Smith, 91, from Ise Road, Kettering, died on May 20, 2013.

His wife Lilian received a lot of support and care from the hospital for her arthritis - which she developed aged 28 and suffered from for many years until her death in 1990.

The Smiths, who did not have any children, lived in Kettering throughout their lives first in Pebbleford Road before moving to a bungalow in Ise Road in 1958 when Lilian’s condition deteriorated.

A memorial plaque has been placed in Kettering General Hospital’s main hospital corridor in memory of Mr Smith and in appreciation of his donation.

Bernard Smith's plaque at KGH

Bernard Smith's plaque at KGH

His neighbours, Janet Lambert, Patricia and John Gatehouse and Terry Stanley gathered there and paid tribute to him on June 20.

John Gatehouse, who was the executor of Mr Smith’s will, said: “I think Bernard would be very pleased to see what has been done with legacy.

“It has been used to buy a huge variety of important equipment for the hospital that will benefit thousands of patients each year across many different departments.

“He wanted to support the hospital in his will because of the care his wife Lilian received for many years from Kettering General Hospital for her rheumatoid arthritis.”

Mr and Mrs Smith’s neighbour, and friend of more than 60 years, Janet Lambert, said: “Bernard was a lovely man and he looked after Lilian wonderfully.

“She had to go to the hospital a lot and he was always there to help her.

“My husband and I used to go around to their home for supper and went out to places with them.

“I think this was his way of thanking the hospital for what they did for Lilian.”

Graham Foster is chairman of Kettering General Hospital and also chairman of the Charitable Funds Committee which decided how Mr Smith’s legacy would be spent.

He said: “Mr Smith’s legacy has enabled the trust to buy a huge range of equipment to support our wards, surgical units, outpatient clinics and children’s department.

“The list of equipment his legacy has bought is very long indeed - everything from potentially life-saving monitors and scanners to equipment used in the diagnosis of disease.

“Each item was very carefully selected and prioritised so that it would bring maximum benefit to the hospital and the local community.

“The biggest single purchase was £148,000 for 124 electric profiling beds which are special beds that are adjustable in many different ways to support elderly and disabled patients.

“Mr Smith’s support for his local community, through this donation to the hospital, has been immense.”

Bernard and Lilian Smith’s story:

Bernard and Lilian Smith lived in the heart of their local community and supported it in many ways throughout their lives.

When Bernard left school in 1938 he went to work at William Timpson’s shoe factory in Bath Road, Kettering, where he met his cheerful and vivacious wife-to- be Lilian – who worked in the offices.

At the outbreak of World War Two, aged only 18, Bernard volunteered to serve in the Royal Navy and spent most of his service on the HMS Antelope, a destroyer, that protected merchant shipping convoys from many threats including German U-Boats.

He travelled several times on hazardous routes to Russia and Malta and was decorated for his service by both the British and Russian Governments.

In 1941 he secured a 24-hour pass and dashed back to Kettering to marry Lilian at St Andrew’s Church in Lindsay Street, Kettering.

They didn’t see one another for another four years.

On his demob Bernard and Lilian bought a house in Pebbleford Road, Kettering, using the wages which he had sent back during his service and which Lilian had put into a savings account.

Sadly at the age of 28 Lilian was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis which led to many visits to Kettering General Hospital and a gradual diminution of her powers.

In a tribute written to Bernard and Lilian, by neighbours Jane and Ted Burwell, they said: “Through all her adversity Lilian never lost her cheerfulness and was always so positive.

“Bernard was absolutely devoted to her, coming home at lunchtime to make sure she had something to eat.

“When she died in 1990 Bernard wouldn’t change anything in his home as ‘Lilian had chosen it’.

“Over the years of her illness Bernard had been so very grateful for all the help that the staff at KGH had given to Lilian that, apart from some very tiny gifts, Bernard left the bulk of his estate to the hospital when he died in 2013.”

In addition to looking after his wife Bernard was also an active member of Kettering’s Pensioners’ Parliament for many years.