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Family building a legacy with Shakespeare Hospice for much-loved Alcester mum Sharne Phipps

When cancer cruelly took Alcester mum Sharne Phipps from her family they were determined to create a legacy that reflected her kind and generous spirit.

This Sunday (12th September), 60 swimmers will brave the open waters of the Spot-on-Wake lake near Henley in the first of what they hope is many ‘Bare it for the Bard’ fundraisers in aid of the Shakespeare Hospice which looked after Sharne in her final days before she died in August 2020.

Richard, Sharne’s widow, is now the sole carer of their children – Grace, 13, and Finn, four. He explained how the idea for the event came about: “My wife was 38 years old when she died. My children are too young to not have a mother in their lives and I miss her every day. For the support and awareness that this event could produce and help other families in our position would mean the world to me. We had a saying that sticks with me every single day, it is the way we lived our lives together and is the name I chose for the group I am starting in Sharne’s name, Love and Courage.”

When the Herald visited Richard and the children at their home last week it was humbling to hear their story, which is heart-breaking but also full of positivity. They are incredibly proud of Sharne and laugh and smile as they recall her life.

Sharne became a pharmacy manager at the Alexandra Hospital having started there aged 18. “She made it to 20 years’ service there,” said Richard, who met Sharne in 2003. “She worked her way up, she progressed quickly because she was very intelligent. She always wanted to push herself and learn. She genuinely loved it. As much as the NHS isn’t run as it should be, she absolutely adored working there.”

Phipps family before Sharne passed away. (51015966)
Phipps family before Sharne passed away. (51015966)

When Sharne’s own dad died from pancreatic cancer four years ago, closely followed by Richard’s mum from Alzheimer’s, Sharne and daughter Grace threw themselves into fundraising for Macmillan.

“We did a walk and Race for Life and raised loads of money. We were looking for other things to do but then Mum got poorly,” explained Grace, who seems to have much of her mum’s spirit.

Even when she was ill, Sharne continued to look out for others – including racing round to help a neighbour when they had a medical emergency.

“She was amazing,” said Richard. “One of the most caring people I’ve ever met. She’d help and do anything she could do for anybody.”

Still unable to bring himself to read all the Facebook messages dedicated to his wife, Richard explained he has set up an email account for the children so people can share stories about Sharne with them. Many of them explain what a great source of support and advice she was, helping many through “dark times”.

Richard, Grace and Finn in front of the rockery in their garden dedicated to Sharne (51015970)
Richard, Grace and Finn in front of the rockery in their garden dedicated to Sharne (51015970)

“We loved her unconditionally and you knew she was well thought of in the community but we didn’t realise just how much,” said Richard as the children smile in agreement, and Grace explains how incredible it was to see hundreds of people line the street to say goodbye to her mum as her funeral cortege drove through Alcester and past the Alexandra.

“Even the undertaker when we got to the crematorium was in tears because he said he’d never seen anything like it before,” added Richard.

After a series of misdiagnosis, Sharne’s cancer was not spotted until January 2020, and even though she had surgery, including a hysterectomy, just a few months later she was told it was terminal.

“Shakespeare Hospice were there every step of the way at the end of my wife’s very brave but short battle with cancer last August,” said Richard. “Almost a year on this amazing place is still supporting myself and my children.”

Talking about how important Sunday’s event is to them, Richard said: “When she was diagnosed Sharne and I talked about how we need to do something positive out of this. The hospice and the care and compassion they’ve shown us and Sharne – you can’t put a price on that.

“This Bare it for the Bard event is my way of giving something back to them. We need to raise money for the hospice because it needs to keep going. Through doing this we keep Sharne’s memory alive and it allows people to reconnect with her.

“The dignity the hospice treated Sian with was amazing. That’s why I want to help.”

Richard will also be swimming at the Bare it for the Bard event, which starts at 11am on Sunday. The team are keen to find a business that will match fund. To donate and contact the team visit at www.shakespearehospice.enthuse.com

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