GILLIAN LESLEY ASKEW REMEMBERED
ADDED 19 DECEMBER 2006
1974 I began working in the Supplies department at Headlands Hospital in
Pontefract, and it was there that I first met Gillian Lesley Askew, or
Gill as we all knew her. She was in her mid-twenties at that time and
had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She lived in Churchbalk
days she appeared to be perfectly fit and well - her illness at that
time was still in its early stages - and then another day she would
stumble through the office door cursing mildly because she’d fallen
coming down the hill to work, and laddered her tights, or grazed her
knees or her hands.
a very pretty young woman with short cropped dark hair and she wore
spectacles. Small and slim she was always immaculately groomed and well
dressed and she had a smile that lit up the office! I remember wondering
how fate could have dealt her such a cruel blow. It seemed so unfair
that her life had been blighted by this dreadful illness. Somehow
though, it was typical of Gill’s grit and determination that other
people seemed to be more aware of her illness than she herself was, in
spite of regular visits to a specialist for assessment and treatments.
She staunchly refused to accept the limitations imposed upon her by her
illness and the only concession she made was when she began working
mornings only instead of full-time because she tired easily.
and I acted as receptionists for the many company reps and visitors who
arrived each day. We dealt with contracts and subscriptions to the many
journals and periodicals that were distributed throughout the hospital.
We typed letters and requests for quotations and thousands of orders. We
telephoned suppliers for prices and delivery times - the list is
endless. We were in regular contact with all the various hospitals and
departments and I feel sure that many people will remember Gill.
brother Tim worked at that time in Barclay’s Bank in Pontefract and I
remember seeing the joy on her face when Tim arrived totally
unexpectedly with a bouquet of flowers for her. I recall how I sensed
her excitement and anticipation when she knew her mother would be
waiting to accompany her on a shopping trip after work.
always remembered my birthday. Her’s was on May 21st, and we always
exchanged small gifts. She was an excellent needlewoman and she made
lots of her own skirts and dresses. She had a talent for patchwork too
which, working in the Supplies department sometimes offered her a supply
of materials to feed her hobby. Whenever obsolete books of curtain
samples were thrown away, Gill would take whatever she could make use of
to become part of a beautiful patchwork quilt or whatever.
a deliciously wicked sense of humour and she could quickly cut someone
down to size if they got too big for their boots, or tried to put one
over on her. She always spoke lovingly of her parents and her brother,
and I remember how she told me once how she and her mother had played a
game of ‘I-Spy’ the previous evening with a little boy named Glynn who
was the school caretakers son. (Her parents lived in Ackworth) Gill was
creased up with laughter telling me how they had struggled to guess what
Glynn’s “I” stood for. Finally they said, “Give in”, and Glynn
triumphantly pointed to the alarm-bell on the wall saying “I-larm!”
Glynn, whoever or whatever he is, will be a man now. I wonder if he
and I telephoned and wrote letters to each other until five or six years
ago. Her Christmas card was the first to pop through my letterbox each
year. By that time she was finding it increasingly difficult to write.
She told me she had ‘helpers’ who came to bathe her and put her to bed
each evening. Her once beautiful handwriting slowly became a scrawl
until eventually she admitted that she couldn’t write anymore. By this
time Gill lived in Rosslyn Court, Ackworth.
continued to send her letters and foolishly assumed that she was reading
them, but was unable to reply. Then, when my letters were returned, “Not
at this address”, I wrote to try and discover where Gill had gone to,
but received no reply.
when I discovered that she had died on November 29th 2006, and I also
learned that her mother had passed away previously. I was most upset
when I realised that, whilst I had imagined the worst a few years ago,
Gill had in fact still been here all the time.
always remember her as a dear friend and workmate who laughed and joked
when she was happy, and shared her innermost secrets when she was
feeling down, and we were alone together. I remember her as someone who
fought and struggled so bravely against all the odds to lead a normal
life; something that most of us so selfishly take for granted at times.
remember how she loved “The Drifters” and enthused about them for weeks
afterwards when she had been to one of their concerts!
a gentle, loving person, who should have received a far better deal in
life, than she got. How I wish she had been granted the gift of living
the long and happy life that she secretly longed for.
Bless you Gill, I’ll never forget you.
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