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Maidenhead & District Stroke Club founder who 'lived to help others' dies aged 68

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

adrianw@baylismedia.co.uk

A founding member of a Maidenhead charity that won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service last year has passed away aged 68.

Fran Symons jointly founded the Maidenhead & District Stroke Club (MDSC), which helps stroke survivors re-establish themselves in a social environment.

She was also a finalist for Volunteer of the Year 2019, to mark her 30 years of service to the community.

The club has been celebrated for many years, even bringing Theresa May to its Christmas party just hours after the general election last year.

Fran’s interest in helping others began with her work as a nurse, then in a nursing home, seeing the effect strokes have on people’s lives.

Noticing that very little is done to help this section of the community, she and the other founding members set up MDSC.

Her son, Neil, joined her and became the chairman 10 years ago. It now has 70 members and has thus far supported about 1,000 people.

“She was the face and heart of the stroke club,” said Neil. “She spoke to every single person, every single week.

“When we’d make an impact on someone’s life they otherwise wouldn’t have had, that always made it worthwhile for mum.”

He remembers with fondness going to Buckingham Palace last year when the organisation won a Queen’s Award and seeing the look of pride on Fran’s face.

“That was the first time it dawned on her ‘wow, I’ve actually done something,’” said Neil.

“When she started getting ill with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and was bedridden at home, the only tears mum ever shed was when she couldn’t be at the club anymore, she couldn’t be hands-on,” he said.

“That was a true sign of her selflessness – it was more than a job, it was her purpose.”

Pam Hayes, secretary of MDSC, has known Fran for about 23 years, since 1997.

“She was the life and soul of the club. I don’t know how it’s going to be without her,” said Pam. “She’ll be greatly missed by us all.”

Fran also worked at the community pharmacy Kays Chemist in Ross Road for many years.

“She was one of life’s special people – she was passionate about helping anybody. She lived for that,” said Pam.

Fran passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, October 17. Her life will be celebrated in a brightly coloured ceremony at Amersham Crematorium on October 31.

She is survived by husband Barry, her sons Neil and Mark and her grandson Watson.

Donations in Fran’s memory can be made to the MDSC, or left on the Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/fransymons

In just 24 hours, Fran’s Just Giving page generated £1,000.

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