Sue Ryder: Tributes to an angel of charity

  Tributes have been pouring in for Baroness Ryder of Warsaw who died last week, aged 77. Lady Ryder was the founder of the charity Sue Ryder Foundation, which runs homes for the sick and disabled. The widow of World War II hero Group Captain Leonard Cheshire had been ill for some time and was admitted to hospital in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in January. Lady Ryder opened her first home in 1952, and the following year set up the Sue Ryder Foundation (now called Sue Ryder Care). The charity operates more than 80 homes worldwide for the sick and disabled. It has about 580 high street shops and more than 24,000 volunteers. Earlier this year, after a disagreement with the charity's trustees, she set up the Bouverie Foundation (Lady Ryder of Warsaw Appeals Fund). Lady Ryder, the youngest of five children, was born in Leeds to parents who were both landed gentry. In 1939, at the age of 16, she volunteered for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, but was soon working with the Special Operations Executive set up by Churchill to co-ordinate Resistance activities. She worked mainly as a driver and radio operator with the Polish section. After the war she volunteered to do relief work in France and Poland. Her experiences visiting the concentration camps had a life-changing effect on her. When the UN pulled out in 1952, she stayed on and took on the cases on 1,400 Poles in German prisons, helping most of them to return home. Using her own money she then brought 30 sick or injured war survivors to England and nursed them herself at the the family home in Cavendish, Norfolk. Around this time she also became a Catholic - a faith which was to sustain her for the rest of her life. In 1959 she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, who was already in charge of his own international network of care homes for the disabled. It was an excellent match - they shared a common faith as well as dreams and goals. In a statement on Thursday, the Bouverie Foundation said: 'The trustees have learned with great sadness of the death of their founder, Lady Ryder. 'They realise that the passing of this exceptional human being will also be mourned by the innumerable supporters, sympathisers and fellow workers who shared Lady Ryder's vision of a more compassionate and humane world and were inspired by her lifelong commitment to the relief of suffering. 'The trustees express their sympathy to Lady Ryder's family for their great loss, and to all those admirers of Lady Ryder's life and work for whom the world will be a sadder and emptier place." The statement said the Bouverie Foundation would continue to function in line with the 'principles she respected'. Lady Ryder lost her husband, founder of the Leonard Cheshire charity which runs homes for the disabled, in 1992 after more than 40 years of marriage. She is survived by a son, Jeremy Cheshire, and a daughter, Dr Elizabeth Cheshire. Her funeral this week is a private family occasion in the chapel of the Sue Ryder Foundation. Poles living in Britain will be holding a memorial service for Lady Ryder a the church of St Andrew Bobola in Leysfield Road, Shepherd's Bush on 2 December.

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