‘Force of nature’ who saved Shoreditch hospital from closure dies aged 96
- Credit: Mildmay
A war heroine, aid worker and co-founder of Europe’s first AIDS hospice in Shoreditch has died aged 96.
Helen Taylor-Thompson is remembered as the woman who saved Mildmay Hospital from closure and established it as an AIDS hospice in the 1980s.
She became chair of the hospital’s board in 1988 and said she spent half her life at Mildmay.
The hospital’s chief executive officer, Geoff Coleman, said: “If you were to celebrate a life, then what a life she led to celebrate.
“So, let us remember to do just that and celebrate all that she achieved both directly and through many others that she influenced and taught.”
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Before she passed, Helen revealed to the Gazette how she helped save countless lives by sending coded messages to secret agents during World War Two for a piece on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
She had always wanted to be a doctor, but the war “upset” her education, she said.
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“My mother said to me: ‘I think business is what you’d be good at,’” she told the Gazette.
Driven by her passion for health, Helen used her business savvy to help people around the world.
She also made sure there was a place that would care for AIDS patients at a time when they faced considerable stigma and discrimination.
The former chair sat on a number of government NHS committees during her long career and, in 2000, launched The Starfish Initiative now known as Education Saves Lives.
The organisation uses interactive DVDs in local languages to educate people about health and disease and works with local partners in Uganda, Kenya, India and many other countries around the globe.
She also helped organise the Great Banquet in 1995, which saw 33,000 people from various backgrounds in London sit down together to share a meal.
Elizabeth Oluoch, executive officer at Mildmay Kenya, said: “She was advocate of justice for the vulnerable and voiceless in society and she will be missed.”
News of Helen’s passing led to an outpouring of tributes championing Helen’s determination, strong character and generosity.
Mildmay trustee Ronald Swan described her as a “force of nature” and Barbara Mukasa, executive officer of Mildmay Uganda, said: “The world has lost such a wonderful leader.”
The funeral for the late Helen Taylor Thompson will take place this on September 23 at 2pm.
To watch the service on youtube click here