A Ray of love for cancer families

SUE SKINNER He was an unassuming, hard-working man whose humble existence gave no hint of wealth or ambition.But Ray Dent's secret dealings on the stock market amassed more than £160,000 - and he was determined his money should be used to help others when he died.

SUE SKINNER

He was an unassuming, hard-working man whose humble existence gave no hint of wealth or ambition.

But Ray Dent's secret dealings on the stock market amassed more than £160,000 - and he was determined his money should be used to help others when he died.

Yesterday saw the official launch of a new facility in the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, which will provide much-needed accommodation for families of cancer patients receiving treatment at the nearby Macmillan Unit. The home-from-home has been paid for by his remarkable bequest.

An avid EDP reader, Mr Dent had been intrigued by an article about the construction of the specialist unit, which was opened by the Queen four years ago, and asked a friend and neighbour, Len Rudd, to find out more about it.

"He chewed it over in his mind," said Mr Rudd. "He said, 'why can't my money do something like that up at the hospital'?"

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Mr Dent, who lived alone in the same cottage at Blackborough End, near King's Lynn, all his life, had started work at a local farm in his teens, later taking on jobs at a building company and the former sugar beet factory at Lynn until his retirement.

He began the process of making his dream a reality by changing his will and appointing Mr Rudd, who runs a coal merchants in the village, as his executor.

"He put money into stocks and shares and things, which we didn't even know about," said Mr Rudd. "He never spent anything and he never went anywhere but he knew what he wanted to do with his money."

When Mr Dent died suddenly in December, 2002, aged 76, he left £135,000 to the QEH, as well as £20,000 to the West Norfolk Diabetes Association and £10,000 to the Southgates Medical Centre in Lynn.

The money for the hospital has paid for the Raymond Dent Cabin, a Scandinavian-style complex with a lounge, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.

Fully equipped for the disabled, it can house two families at a time and overlooks the Macmillan Unit. The interior furnishings are being paid for by other charities.

Yesterday's ceremony was performed by BBC Look East weather presenter Julie Reinger, who has lost several family members to cancer.

She said she had been amazed to discover that Mr Dent had not even been treated at the hospital himself.

"From what I have been told he was a very modest and hard-working gentleman," she said. "I know what a huge difference this home-from-home will make to so many families."

Allyson Broadhurst, chairman of the QEH NHS trust, paid tribute to Mr Dent's generosity and the tireless efforts of Mr Rudd to bring a "wonderful" project to fruition.

She said many relatives of cancer patients had to cope with the strain of long journeys to see their loved ones.

"They need to be here, really as close as possible, to support the sufferer in sadly what can be their final days and hours," she said. "I know many of the families who stay here will be incredibly grateful."

Mr Rudd and his wife, Eileen, looked after Mr Dent in his later years, enabling him to remain in his home until he died.

"He would be right over the moon with this," said Mr Rudd. "You couldn't believe he could live as he did - but his heart was in the right place."