Widow at Northamptonshire retirement home ‘wept with happiness’ after receiving cushion made from late husband’s shirt

Chris Rayatt-Howard hands Joyce Beckett the cushion made from her late husband's shirt. Picture: SWNS
Chris Rayatt-Howard hands Joyce Beckett the cushion made from her late husband's shirt. Picture: SWNS
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A recently widowed gran was left “overcome with emotion” after retirement home staff gave her a cushion made out of her late husband’s favourite shirt.

Joyce Beckett, 93, became distressed in the evenings after her husband-of-70 years John passed away aged 91 on February 11.

The cushion made from John Beckett's shirt. Picture: SWNS

The cushion made from John Beckett's shirt. Picture: SWNS

Staff started noticing the elderly widow, who suffers from dementia, liked to always be with someone to hold their hand to comfort her.

So Chris Rayatt-Howard, head of activities at the retirement home where she lives, decided to make the special “memory cushion”.

He asked the couple’s son David for John’s favourite shirt which he then stitched over a cushion.

Kind-hearted Chris also added a picture of John to the top pocket and attached a message which read: “This is a shirt I used to wear. Whenever you hold it know that I am there.”

Joyce Beckett & John Beckett. Picture: SWNS

Joyce Beckett & John Beckett. Picture: SWNS

He then presented the cushion to Joyce last Thursday, who wept with happiness when she realised it was made from her late husband’s shirt.

Joyce, who has one grown-up son and one grandson, told staff she was “quite overcome with emotion in a happy way” after receiving the gift.

The couple’s only son, David Beckett, 68, a retired bank manager in Northampton, said: “Chris who did it asked Claire to ask me if I would let them have a shirt of my father.

“I said yes and I can’t believe what a lovely touch it was.

“I’m sure it will be a comfort because she has had some distressing times recently, particularly early evenings so to have that cushion is just remarkable.

“It is just so typical of Richmond, it really is care with a capital C.”

Claire Fry, 45, the senior village adviser at Richmond Villages in Northampton, said staff were emotional as they watched on.

She added: “They were very nice couple together and fitted in well here and attended all the quiz nights.

“They looked after each other really. Joyce has dementia but you probably wouldn’t know it meeting her for the first time.

“But her mobility is great so she helped John out when his mobility was poor.

“Chris came up with the idea after he saw something on the internet.

“When I spoke with Joyce’s son David he thought is was a brilliant idea and gave his permission straight away.

“He stitched it himself and when he gave it to her it was very emotional.

“It was one of his favourite shirts so she recognised what it was and she was very tearful.

“A lot of other staff who were on a training day were there as well and they had tears in their eyes and were getting emotional too.

“It is in her bedroom now and is always kept close to her.”

Joyce and John, a retired local government worker, moved into an assisted living suite at Richmond Village three years ago because their son David wanted to keep them together as long as possible.

The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on August 18 last year and received a letter from the Queen congratulating them on the big occasion.

John was taken to hospital at the start of the year but the pair were both kept on the care floor when he returned to the retirement home until he passed away last month.

Photographs of the touching moment Chris gave Joyce the cushion which were posted on Facebook have already reached more than 21,500 people.

Claire added: “I put a few photos on our page and was shocked when later than night in had reached more than 2,000 people.

“It has now got to more than 21,500 and has gone viral.

“The reaction from people has been quite overwhelming to the point that we are getting requests to make cushions.

“It is such a kind gesture from Chris and is an example of person centred caring at its best.

“We are very lucky to have such a talented member of staff with such a caring nature.”