'True hospice treasure': Tributes paid to dedicated philanthropist

John McKernan

John McKernan, who supported Saint Francis Hospice for 25 years, sadly died on February 14, 2022. - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

A passionate philanthropist, who is remembered as a “shining light” at a local hospice, has died aged 82.  

John McKernan died on Valentine's Day this year after suffering from a short illness.  

His funeral took place at Corpus Christi church in Collier Row on March 11, followed by his cremation in Corbets Tey. 

Throughout his life, John was involved with Saint Francis Hospice (SFH), which supports people in Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Brentwood.  

Having first become involved with the independent charity in 1997 as an associate trustee, John made a difference in many people’s lives over 25 years.  

In 1999 he gained full trustee status and spent several years as a day hospice volunteer.  

He became hospice chairman in 2001, a position he stepped down from in 2010. 

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Personal assistant to the director of finance at SFH, Sheena Rendell, said John was a “very hands-on" chairman and the “most generous and kind person” she has ever met.  

He was also chairman of SFH's shops' board of directors from 2007 to 2010, and in 2013 became a patron of SFH.  

John's wife of 54 years, Gwenda, was also a reception volunteer at the hospice before she sadly died in June 2017.  

Sheena said: “He was absolutely passionate about Saint Francis Hospice, possibly even more passionate than he was about his beloved Celtic FC.” 

She recalled someone describing John as a "shining light who never failed to know our worth”, a statement she believes is “so true”.   

John also facilitated events at the hospice in Havering-atte-Bower, such as when students from Pyro Priory Primary School and Hall Mead School came to the then-Day Hospice - now called Pemberton Place - to sing and entertain patients at Christmas.  

Medical director at the hospice, Dr Corinna Midgley, said he arranged this because he "saw the value of young people linking with and learning from hospice attendees”.  

Corinna, who said she feels “privileged” to have known John, said he was “always ready with a joke, a smile”.  

“Over time, as he had friends needing hospice care, their care affirmed his faith in us to deliver great care," she said. “Thank you, dear John, what a gift you were.

"A true hospice treasure."

Voluntary services manager, Gill Wendelken, also recalled John’s kind-hearted nature and the fact he “genuinely wanted to know how people were”.

He is survived by his second wife Norah, two children and numerous relatives and friends.

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