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Former nurse Joan, 101, prepares for final lap of park to raise funds for NHS

Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent
·3-min read

A 101-year-old retired nurse has raised thousands of pounds for the NHS as she aims to walk 102 laps of her local park before she turns 102.

Following in Captain Sir Thomas Moore’s footsteps, the former auxiliary nurse and Second World War veteran aims to raise as much money as possible for the service she worked in for much of her life.

Joan Rich has already completed 100 laps of Allenby Park in Felixstowe, Suffolk.

The 101st walk is planned for Thursday and the final walk will take place on her birthday on September 11.

Using her frame, or pushing her wheelchair, she walks around the park completing a 560m walk from door to door.

Joan Rich walking through Allenby Park in Felixstowe, Suffolk
Joan Rich walking through Allenby Park in Felixstowe, Suffolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

Mrs Rich said she was inspired to complete the challenge after seeing “NHS” mowed into the lawn of the park during lockdown.

“I wanted to do my bit for them,” she said.

“The only way I can help is by walking, like Sir Tom, I hope it makes a difference.”

Joan Rich
Joan Rich served with the Royal Military Police during the Second World War (Diane Rich/PA)

Her daughter Diane Rich, who accompanies her on the walks, set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for NHS charities.

She has raised more than £22,000 so far and she hopes for a final surge in donations as she aims to complete her final two walks.

“She has walked over 35 miles,” Diane told the PA news agency.

“She has been very humbled by the support she has had from neighbours, friends and strangers.

“She says no matter how big or small all donations add up to help raise money for the NHS.”

Joan Rich
Mrs Rich is helped on her walks by daughter Diane (PA)

Joan, who was a nurse at Felixstowe General Hospital between 1964 and 1978, said she sometimes had to take trips to the park during shifts when patients absconded from the hospital and went to the park.

Mrs Rich also worked at Hillingdon Hospital in west London – the hospital in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s constituency – before moving to Felixstowe in 1964.

During the Second World War she served with the Royal Military Police and was stationed in Jerusalem where she helped prisoners of war return to health before being sent home to their families in the UK – including a member of her local bicycle club in Ipswich who was captured at the start of the war.

Mrs Rich, who was born in Meriden in the West Midlands during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, said the sense of community spirit during the coronavirus pandemic reminded her of that during war time.

Mrs Rich is raising money for NHS Charities Together
Mrs Rich is raising money for NHS Charities Together (Joe Giddens/PA)

While stationed in Jerusalem, she lived close to another Allenby Park – spending more than half of her life visiting parks with the same name.

Local children have put images in their front windows encouraging Mrs Rich to achieve her goal.

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