Tributes have been paid to Dr Jeremy Lee, joint founder of local charity The Sara Lee Trust, who has died after battling dementia for a number of years.
Dr Lee, who was born in Sutton, Surrey, on July 27, 1936, passed away on January 24, 2017 aged 80. His wife of 57 years, Sally spoke of his life and paid tribute to her husband.
“When Jeremy was about six years old he developed a lump on his arm. His GP felt it should be removed and the deed was done on the kitchen table. Jeremy was so fascinated by the procedure that he decided to become a doctor and never wavered from that day on with his choice of career.
“Jeremy started at the Middlesex Hospital in 1955, where, unknown to him, a certain nurse started her training at the same time.
“We met in 1957 having both joined the hospital’s dramatic society.
“I was fascinated by this student who wore very brightly coloured waistcoats and seemed able to converse on any subject. He also, very importantly, made me laugh.
“We were married in 1959. Jeremy was still a student. He qualified a year later and did his house jobs at St Helier’s Hospital in Carshalton. Having finished his house jobs, he decided to join the RAF, he was really keen on flying and aircraft - I am sure one the reasons he married me was that my father was a pilot. His first posting was to Chivenor, Devon, which in those days was a Hunter plane conversion unit. He was in his element having trips in the Hunters, doing decompression and bailing out in the sea. During this time, our first son Nick was born. Jeremy was then posted to Aden where he was initially seconded to a Hunter pilot unit. Sadly one of the family doctors looking after the service families was ill and had to go home, so Jeremy got his job.
“Although very disappointed, he found that he really enjoyed treating the families. During our time in Aden, our daughter Sara was born.
“On our return to the UK and out of the RAF, Jeremy did a year’s training as a GP in Guildford.
“In spite of there being six partners Jeremy did all the night calls and had one weekend off in four, real slave labour.
“Towards the end of his time in Guildford he was approached by a practice in Chobham where he duly became the junior partner.
“The senior partner wanted us to live in Bisley as the practice was moving in to cover the village. The government had just finished building Bisley prison which the senior partner thought the practice should cover.
“So aside from doing midwifery, assisting in surgery with private patients, the prison surgery after evening surgery, and the ordinary practice surgery and visits, it was a very busy time.
“We subsequently moved to New Zealand. By this time we had our second son Tim. My father was a New Zealander and Jeremy found a practice near to where my father lived.
“The practice was not so different from the one he had left. He was still doing midwifery and usual visits and surgeries.
“The only difference was the local hospitals were 40 miles away in either direction. We then moved to Auckland to a typical city practice.
“By this time, I had become really homesick. We returned to England and Jeremy joined the Warrior Square practice in 1978.
“Then, as our daughter Sara was dying in 1995, he became medical director of St Michael’s Hospice.
“A year later, having qualified in palliative care, he became an honorary consultant at the Conquest Hospital. He was instrumental in starting Hospice at Home for local charity St Michael’s Hospice.
“Jeremy and I with friends set up the Sara Lee Trust in 1996. Jeremy was a Trustee from the start; his work prevented him from being hands on but he was enormously supportive of my role.
“Jeremy had a love of walking, was knowledgeable of planes trains and aircraft plus both world wars.
“He loved sailing which he enjoyed with like-minded friends not his seasick wife. We travelled a great deal in his precious time off.
“Jeremy retired in 2009. Six months later he had a small TIA (transient ischemic attack - mini-stroke) and though physically recovered from that, it made his already failing memory for words much worse.
“A year later he fell and broke his hip. The trauma and drugs seemed to tip him further into the dementia we now realised he had.
“The signs had come early on and were only recognised in hindsight; the first being his inability to read the lesson at St John’s Church as the sentences kept coming together, then losing things and his inability to punch numbers in his phone.
“For some time, we managed with help, friends took him out for walks and great lunches.
“He also worked in the Sara Lee Shop in Bexhill, I say worked but really, he held court with his old patients.
“He was still a Trustee of the Sara Lee Trust having been wonderfully supportive of my role.
“Then two and half years ago, it was decided that he needed residential care.
“A friend recommended Bannow retirement home in Quarry Road where Angela and her staff looked after him so caringly and with such love.
“It has been a hard journey for the family to watch this wonderfully communicative man deteriorate slowly.
“There were of course often amusing incidences, the best was when Jeremy asked me if I was married? Yes, I replied, to you, at which he fell about laughing as only he could do.
“The family and I are so relieved that his suffering is over, and are so grateful for the love and prayers that have supported us.
“I have and will continue to miss my very best friend and the person I loved and who loved me for the last 57 years.
“Jeremy was a committed Christian and I am sure that he is now fully restored and with our Lord, and reunited with Sara.”
Maria Gonet, fundraising manager for The Sara Lee Trust, said: “As we celebrate our 21st year of supporting local people living with cancer and other life threatening illnesses and their families and carers, it is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Dr Jeremy Lee, who with his wife Sally, founded the Trust in 1996.
“Jeremy was the medical director of St Michael’s Hospice for many years and will be remembered across Hastings and Rother for his wonderful personality, compassion and dedication to his patients.
“Ethnie Moser, who was the physiotherapist at St Michael’s Hospice for a number of years, was an essential part of the initial Sara Lee Trust Team and remains a key supporter to this day, remembers Jeremy as being passionate about The Sara Lee Trust and instrumental in its progress.”
Celia Pyke-Lees, chief executive, St Michael’s Hospice, paid tribute to Dr Lee on behalf of the hospice: “It was with great sadness that we heard of the death of our former medical director Dr Jeremy Lee, who made a significant contribution to the Hospice before his retirement in 2006.
“Jeremy was a man with energy, commitment and a great dedication to the care of his patients.
“We will always be very grateful of the progress that was made during his 12 years in post. His visionary work played a huge role in developing Hospice services, including the start-up of our valuable Hospice at Home team, taking our specialist palliative care out in to the community.”
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