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‘Force of nature’ who saved Shoreditch hospital from closure dies aged 96

PUBLISHED: 14:25 23 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:46 23 September 2020

Helen Taylor Thompson OBE, 1924-2020. Picture: Mildmay

Helen Taylor Thompson OBE, 1924-2020. Picture: Mildmay

Mildmay

A war heroine, aid worker and co-founder of Europe’s first AIDS hospice in Shoreditch has died aged 96.

Helen with Princess Diana when she visited Mildmay in the 1980s. Picture: MildmayHelen with Princess Diana when she visited Mildmay in the 1980s. Picture: Mildmay

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.”

Helen with actors John Malkovich and Glen Close. Picture: MildmayHelen with actors John Malkovich and Glen Close. Picture: Mildmay

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.

“My mother said to me: ‘I think business is what you’d be good at,’” she told the Gazette.

READ MORE: VE Day 2020: World War Two heroine sent messages for victory

Helen meeting Pope John Paull II. Picture: MildmayHelen meeting Pope John Paull II. Picture: Mildmay

READ MORE: Mildmay Hospital’s doors have always been open to those in need

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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.

Helen Taylor Thompson with Mildmay colleagues. Picture: MildmayHelen Taylor Thompson with Mildmay colleagues. Picture: Mildmay

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.

READ MORE: London’s only HIV/AIDS hospital launches petition to stay open

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.

Helen worked at Mildmay hospital for half of her life. Picture: MildmayHelen worked at Mildmay hospital for half of her life. Picture: Mildmay

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.

READ MORE: Mildmay hospital gets ready to treat homeless Covid-19 patients

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


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