Former President of Maidstone Mencap
Pat Wilmshurst was a founding member of Maidstone Mencap. This was started as there was no provision for a nursery school for children with special education needs, so Pat and a few families started the playschool. This has now grown and helped so many children and their families in the Maidstone area over many years.
Pat remained actively involved in the charity, spending many years as president.
She demonstrated her compassionate nature, along with a calm ferocity in supporting and standing up for the charity and its users. She campaigned and used her network to work with other local charities and the wider community to build awareness and generate funds. This was particularly evident in the drive to deliver the large project of installing a lift at Cobtree Hall, which has improved the facilities offered dramatically.
She was heavily invested and interested in all the users of the charity and particularly loved the children. She and her husband, John, opened their home and invited all the children and their families to lunch every year just after Christmas. She loved to see everyone, watch them grow and check on their progress.
Pat was a kind, determined and passionate woman. Maidstone Mencap would not be the organisation it is without her, and she will be sorely missed.
Guy Roughley (Trustee, and former Chair)
I must have first met Pat in about 1970/71 when my second son, Ben, went to holiday club run by Maidstone Mencap. Ben had a learning disability and was diagnosed as having a sight problem and being profoundly deaf when he was 2 years old. Pat was entertaining Ben for the day, not an easy task as he was a lively and inquisitive child who never sat still. Pat and Ben spent some time playing in the sand pit when Pat discovered that one of Ben’s hearing aids was missing. She later told me that she searched through the sand and was so worried about facing the wrath of Ben’s mum! Little did she know that Ben often lost his hearing aids, and I was more concerned about whether he had enjoyed his day.
Pat was always a joy to be with, always interested in what Ben was doing and, later on, was a lifesaver when Cobtree Mums was started up. By then, my family had grown to include my fourth son, Luke, who had profound learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and was deafblind. I have so many memories of Pat’s Christmas lunches for Cobtree Mums, and for me it heralded the start of Christmas for many years. Nothing was too much trouble and very early on I remember Pat organising support for us Mums by inviting girls from the local grammar school to entertain our children, so that we could have some relaxation and enjoy our lunch.
Later on in life, I invited Pat to visit a new house I had been lucky enough to set up in conjunction with social services for my youngest son and four other school leavers. It was opened by the Princess Royal and, of course, Pat was invited. She later provided some much-needed funding via KHOCA for extras for the house, which has gone on to be rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.
We were all sad when Pat moved from the Maidstone area to be nearer her family, although I was lucky enough to visit her on a couple of occasions and it was lovely to see her, still the perfect hostess, and always interested in our families.
I feel so privileged to have known Pat and have so much to thank her for.
Pat’s final act of kindness for Maidstone Mencap was to thoughtfully remember the charity in her will, the proceeds of which will be used to help ensure the charity continues to provide its services to those in our community who most need our support.
Pat will never be forgotten by those of us who were privileged enough to know her.