A life dedicated to caring for the vulnerable

Thelma Hamilton, a Banbridge woman who devoted her life to the care of others, has passed away at Craigavon Area Hospital on Thursday evening August 28.

Thelma was the dearly loved wife of Raymond and devoted mum of Emma. Formerly Miss Thelma Clegg, she was the daughter of the late Noel and Helen Clegg.

Paying tribute to Thelma’s caring nature the Rev Gordon Best said: “throughout her working life she dedicated herself to caring for some of the more vulnerable members of our community - both young and old”.

Thelma began her career in Donard Special School in Banbridge, before moving on to work for the health and social services sector – firstly as a Day Care Worker at the Scarva Street Rehabilitation Centre, then at Copperfields Day Centre, before finally moving to become Centre Manger at Crozier Lodge Rehabilitation Unit – all of these in Banbridge.

Rev Best continued: “In all of these work places Thelma was a highly talented and well-respected colleague who set herself and indeed rightly expected from others the highest standards”.

“She was determined to live to the full, and I don’t know too many others who had as many fingers in so many pies as Thelma”.

Outlining some of these interests the Rev Best said: “Thelma was a devoted member of the Girl Guides. As a young girl, she grew up through the different age sections of the Guides and in adulthood she continued her interest in Guiding and rose to take several very high positions within the Association – over the years at various times she has been the local District Commissioner for Banbridge, as well as County Commissioner for South Down.

“For a number of years she became the Ulster Chairperson for the Trefoil Guild (which to the uninitiated is Guiding for Adults) and continued right up to her recent illness as Chairperson of the local Trefoil Guild in Banbridge.

“Along with Raymond, Thelma was very involved in St. John’s Ambulance. Thelma believed strongly in the vision and values of St John’ and was appointed President of the local Banbridge division, and again, threw herself into much of the administration and organisation of its great work.

“Thelma was also deeply involved in the Banbridge and District Gateway Club which is a club for people with a learning disability and aims to promote and develop for them leisure, recreational, social and educational opportunities. Thelma was a helper there from the club’s earliest days and in more recent years became Chairperson – again running a very effective and varied programme every Wednesday evening in her usual quietly efficient and caring manner.

“Not only was Thelma a born organiser and one to ‘get things done’ – she was also extremely talented and creative. She had a love for music and poetry, and appreciated so many of the performing arts – but most of us will always associate Thelma chiefly with floral art. She adored flowers and there were few that could put a floral display as beautifully as Thelma. She was in huge demand at a time for weddings, floral exhibitions, and flower arranging evenings. She taught floral design at local night classes as well as within her work context. Here in Newmills, she was the lead person in decorating the church for our harvest thanksgiving services, It took her hours often working into the wee small hours, but it truly was for her a labour of love.

“Over and above all of these interests though was her love for family. For Thelma, family meant a small but fiercely close-knit unit. She was devastated to lose her own father at a young age, but cared so attentively for her mother through the years along with Valerie. She spoke so fondly of wider family of aunts and uncles and of course Valerie and her family, talking a very genuine interest in each of their lives, but there was no doubt about the depth of the love she had for both Raymond and Emma.

“She met Raymond at the Gateway in Banbridge where Raymond was a driver, love blossomed and they were married on the August 20, 1983 in Thelma’s home congregation, Scarva Street Presbyterian.

Rev Best continued: “Thelma was able to assure me that she was a Christian, and was able to share verses and devotional thoughts from God’s Word with many others in the different contexts of her busy life.

“We have lost a unique lady – a very real friend to many – one who gave wholeheartedly of herself – often at great personal cost for the good and happiness of others – one who went the extra mile – or two or three extra miles – to make things happen – one who wasn’t afraid of hard work and standards of excellence – and who underneath it all, had a heart of gold. We will miss her more than words can say and we thank God for the privilege of having Thelma be part of our lives, and of having been enriched and blessed through knowing her”.

Thelma is survived by her husband Raymond, daughter Emma, sister Valerie, husband David, nephews Stuart and Mark, Stuart’s wife Linda and baby Jake, Aunt Doreen, Uncle Jim and cousin Gareth. To these and all other relatives sincere sympathy has been extended.