Val Hunkin had taught a whole generation of emerging palliative care professionals in India, supported by Bruce Davis Trust.
There were tears in many eyes as her many friends whose lives she had touched, spoke about the wonderful person Val Hunkin was.
Dear Val, it is not easy to let go. But we have to. You taught us how important it is. Rest in peace!
More tributes below, published in the April 6th 2011 Cornwall Guardian: Friends pay tribute to Cornwall’s ‘inspiring’ first Macmillan nurse.
Reverand Peggy Rowett:
IT WAS in September 1975 that I first met Val Hunkin, the district nurse in the Roseland area.
I had just heard that my husband was terminally ill with bowel cancer. This was a great shock for my family and at that time we looked for support and help.
And there was Val. She came into our lives just at the right moment. From the beginning she offered her compassion and professional skills, not just for Tony, my husband, but for the whole family.
There was no hospice or Macmillan service in those days, so we looked after Tony at home, where he died in January, 1976. It was through this caring that we all became very close.
Care of the dying is a very intimate experience and takes you onto a very deep, spiritual level of friendship, and this we shared with Val. It was after Tony’s death that Val, with the encouragement of Peter Durnford, became one of the first Macmillan nurses in Cornwall.
This was borne directly from the shared experience of caring for Tony at home.
In his dying he had opened the way for this service for others in need.
Val remained my dear friend all through the years; true friendship never dies and she will live in my heart forever. Thank you, Val, for love and laughter and just for being you.
I first met Val in the autumn of 1978, in advance of her becoming one of the first “team” of two Macmillan nurses in Cornwall and, I think, only the seventh Macmillan nurse in the country. Since that time I worked with her continuously for more than 25 years in the field of palliative care, for 16 years when she was with the Macmillan service, and then in a private capacity.
I can do no better at this time than to include a passage from a letter I wrote to Val in March 1991, when she retired as team leader of, by then, a large team:
“My admiration for your style of leadership is shared by all who have been witness to it; always being the unspoilt “you”, in front by example and tireless, singleminded dedication to the cause and every detail of it, never pushing but always carrying your team with you.”
Those words were true throughout her work in spreading the concept of palliative care in many parts of the world.
Her first overseas task was in Hong Kong where, from very small beginnings, she developed a team of nurses, some of whom we trained in Cornwall, until ultimately those beginnings grew, in concert with Macmillan and the Bradbury Trust, into an integrated service run from a new hospice there.
Thus started an intensive series of overseas visits. She visited India on many occasions over several years, running workshops for medical practitioners and volunteers throughout the country from Assam to Kerala. Her skills and her particular style of working with people resulted in her being much admired and very much loved.
She also spent time in Kenya, South Africa and the USA where, working alongside others sharing her ideals, she brought her unwavering commitment and quiet expertise to enhancing the skills of those working with the seriously ill and the dying. To be with Val was to encounter her kind and gentle nature, always accompanied by a sharp brain and endless humour.
Her courage throughout her very long illness, so lovingly supported by Jeni, should be an inspiration to all.
I considered Val to be a member of my personal family and I miss her as such.