Appeal to remember ‘angels’ at home of UK’s oldest virus victim

The nursing home where Britain’s oldest known victim of coronavirus died is appealing to the community to help build a memorial garden to celebrate the home’s “angels”.

Hilda Churchill, aged 108, lived at Kenyon Lodge in Salford, Greater Manchester, for the final months of her very long life.

The former seamstress lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 which killed 50 million people, including her baby sister.

Mrs Churchill died on March 28, just eight days before her 109th birthday and a day after testing positive for Covid-19.

Born in 1911, the grandmother and matriarch of her family, had four children, 11 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

Hilda Churchill holding her daughter Margaret
Hilda Churchill holding her daughter Margaret in late 1945 or early 1946 (Family handout/PA)

Now the 60-bed nursing home where she lived is asking gardeners, builders and members of the public to help create a garden of remembrance at the home.

Nurse practitioner Emma Rogers made a public appeal for a tree surgeon, to trim back trees in the grounds, ground workers to build a pathway for wheelchairs, skip hire firms and fencers.

Local schoolchildren have also been asked to paint stones as decoration.

The home also hopes to install a decking area where current residents and bereaved family members, who have been denied a proper funeral due to social distancing rules, can go to reflect and remember.

Ms Rogers, launching the appeal on the Go Fund Me website, said: “We want to celebrate the lives of our angels, pay our respects and say our goodbye with their loved ones by our sides.

“We decided to create a memorial garden in the grounds of their home.

Hilda with her grandson Anthony Churchill
Hilda with her grandson Anthony Churchill (Anthony Churchill/PA)

“We have been given so many generous donations already at the home and we are very grateful for the kindness shown.

“We want to give our angels the best they deserve, with a lovely place to go to, spend time to reflect and share our happy memories, we will always remember them, they are our Kenyon Lodge Angels.”

The home’s manager, Gulzar Nazir, said the home has lost “quite a few people” during the pandemic.

He added: “We have a lot of gardens, we want to make them usable. This is a very difficult time for us but at least we can start to make it a little better…

“Families who have lost loved ones, they didn’t even see them because of the guidelines, so it is quite a frustrating time for families and staff too.

“We lost quite a few people, we just want to remember them.”

– Donations to the appeal can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/kenyon-lodge-angels

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