Cheshire Homes the world over are celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday this year of its founder, Lord Leonard Cheshire.
Born September 7 1917, the World War II fighter pilot and recipient of the Victoria Cross for gallantry was at the forefront of providing services for people with disabilities.
He opened his first charity home for disabled people in 1948, and today his legacy lives on with more than 200 Cheshire homes across the world.
Alet Bosman, manager of the Eric Miles Cheshire Home in Sanddrift, remembers the “humble, persistent, fun-loving man with a heart of gold”.
She first met Lord Cheshire when he visited the Eric Miles Cheshire home in 1985.
“When I first met him, I expected a tall big man, and instead here was this quiet, unassuming, undemanding man that was happy with whatever you gave him,” said Ms Bosman.
The Eric Miles Cheshire Home was the first to be established in the Western Cape and is now one of four such homes in the province.
Lord Cheshire visited the Eric Miles Cheshire home again in 1990.
Two years later, he died of motor neuron disease in a Cheshire home.
“Someone asked him before he died if he was upset about having this terrible illness. He had helped so many people with disabilities and now he was not able to help himself. He responded saying, ‘Previously I spoke on behalf of them, and now I speak as one of them’.”
The Cheshire Foundation, based in England, has asked all its branches across the world to write something special in honour of Mr Cheshire’s birthday, and Ms Bosman has shared her fondest memories and favourite quotes in her letter, “What a Man”.
She recalls one memory in which he had his hair cut by one of the volunteers. “Our volunteer hairdresser was so nervous she accidentally nipped his ear. He had such a laugh and warned the residents to cover their ears when they visited her for a haircut.”
Ms Bosman has managed the home since 1984 and remembers the pearls of wisdom Ms Cheshire left with her on his first visit.
“He told me don’t start something you are not willing to see through. If your heart’s not in it, get out. That was 34 years ago and I’m still here,” she said.
* The Eric Miles Cheshire home will have its annual fete on Friday and Saturday September 29 and 30.
The home needs donations of books; tombola items; needlework; toys; bric-a-brac for the white elephant stall; furniture; ingredients for the cake, pudding and curry-and-rice stalls; fruit and veg; plants and more.
Donations can be dropped off at the Home at 18 Corsair Road, Sanddrift or call Alet or Anthony at 021 552 2120 to arrange collection of donated items.