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Bury St Edmunds St Nicholas Hospice Care’s first community nurse June Shield was 'determined and loving' – tributes

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Tributes have been paid to a pioneering and inspirational nurse who helped found St Nicholas Hospice Care.

June Shield, who died aged 89 on Friday, played a key role in setting up the Bury St Edmunds hospice having been one of the first prescribing palliative care nurses in the area.

She campaigned for inpatient hospice beds for patients with complex symptoms which led to the foundation of the hospice where she worked for 12 years.

June Shield
June Shield

Her granddaughter Dr Josephine Phizacklea, who works in A&E in Norwich, said: “She was very determined, very loving and had difficult times in her life. She cared a lot about other people’s pain and was very independent. She was a single mum with three young kids and worked full time. She was very strong and quite vulnerable at times.”

Born in County Durham, June trained as an orthopaedic nurse in Wakefield and moved to Bury St Edmunds for her first husband Tony’s work.

After time as a West Suffolk Hospital staff nurse, she later trained as a district nurse, where she ‘found her passion for ensuring good end of life care’ for patients in their homes.

June is pictured fifth from left on the top row
June is pictured fifth from left on the top row

June (surname Storey at the time) trained as a specialist Macmillan nurse at the Royal Marsden in London and worked on the Terrence Higgins wards during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

She became St Nicholas Hospice Care’s first community nurse sister and started on May 1, 1984. She worked with Shirley Walker and Eunice Joseph to provide end of life care.

Shirley said June liaised with GPs to help develop the service.

“She was excellent at her job,” said Shirley. “If you had any problems she was very knowledgeable and understanding.”

June worked closely with Shirley Walker (left) and Eunice Joseph (right) in the early days of the hospice service
June worked closely with Shirley Walker (left) and Eunice Joseph (right) in the early days of the hospice service

June was part of the Territorial Army as a nursing officer and obtained the territorial decoration and rank of major.

“She had a lot of skills regarding discipline and how to speak to people,” Shirley added.

Eunice, who worked with June until 1991, said: “It was her vision to get things moving that started the service. She was a great lady.

“It was exciting – the beginning of something new but equally there were some hard knocks. At the start we had to change attitudes. We were nurses, we were women and there were doctors who obviously always thought they were kingpins of the team. We came along and said ‘we’ve got something to add to that, are you willing to listen?’. It was difficult to start with but we got there.”

June Shield was in the Territorial Army
June Shield was in the Territorial Army

Linda McEnhill, chief executive of St Nicholas Hospice Care, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of June Shield, who was St Nicholas Hospice Care’s first nurse.

"June joined St Nic’s in 1984, delivering care in people’s homes before the hospice even had a building. Because of her, we were able to strive for something better for people at the end of their life.

"June is an unforgettable part of our beginnings, and we continue to be inspired by her contribution and compassion almost 40 years on.

"We will always cherish her memory and the difference she made to people in West Suffolk and Thetford."

June, later of Hengrave, was one of the first people in the country to be awarded the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund’s Henry Garnett medal for long service.

Following her retirement she had many happy times with her second husband Donald, attended Culford Church group and was involved with the Bury Society, the English Speaking Union and the University of the Third Age.

When she joined a memoirs group, she wrote: “The theme of my story is to ‘love and be loved’ even if it means by taking risks we encounter pain. The pain is part of loving and living and will ease as we grow within ourselves during our lifespan.”

She also leaves daughter Jane, son John and daughter-in-law Jane. Her son Chris died in 2001.

Her funeral is on June 20 at West Suffolk Crematorium at 10.30am and donations will go to St Nicholas Hospice Care.

The family thanked those who helped June to stay at home in her final days.