Wife of Sheffield hospice founder dies aged 90

Jess Wilkes
Jess Wilkes
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The widow of the medic who founded St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield has died aged 90.

Jess Wilkes, wife of the late Professor Eric Wilkes - an important figure in the national and international hospice movement - died at home in the Peak District village of Curbar.

She was with her family who had supported her through a short illness.

Lady Neill, president of St Luke’s Hospice in Whirlow, said she was ‘greatly saddened’, describing Jess as a ‘gentle and gracious lady’.

“Jess Wilkes, like her late husband, was immensely proud of the care extended by St Luke’s and the fact it was being taken from strength to strength,” she said.

“She played her own part in that care by working tirelessly as a volunteer for many years.”

The Wilkes family continues to have an active role in supporting St Luke’s as patrons, advocates and fundraisers, and The Eric Wilkes Prize for outstanding commitment to palliative care is awarded by Sheffield Hallam University each year.

Peter Hartland, chief executive at St Luke’s, added: “We will miss Jess whose hard work and dedication supported the development of St Luke’s over many years.

“Our thoughts go out to her children Ruth, Tom and Matthew, and to her grandchildren at this difficult time.

“We are proud of our continued association with the family who have done so much for our city.”

Prof Wilkes, who died in 2009, was one of the country’s most eminent figures in palliative care. He met Jess while training at St Thomas’ hospital, London, and they married in 1953.

St Luke’s opened in 1971 - at the time it was England’s first hospice outside London. In 1980 the professor wrote a key report into the care of terminally ill patients.

Jess died last Friday, March 3. The family has asked that donations, instead of flowers, be given to the hospice charity and Helen’s Trust. These should be sent to funeral directors J W & J Mettam Ltd, Bakewell. Cards should also be sent to the undertakers.

The funeral will be held from 2pm on Tuesday, March 14, at All Saints Church, Curbar.