No presents, just cash for cause Derek helped gift town

A tea party to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Memory Cafe founder Derek Eagle (seated 2nd right)

A tea party to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Memory Cafe founder Derek Eagle (seated 2nd right) was held at Twyford House on Wednesday. Ref shs 14-16SH 9708. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

‘Wonderful’ Derek Eagles didn’t want any presents at a bash to celebrate his forthcoming 80th birthday – just donations to the valued charity he played a vital role in setting up.

Members of the Sid Valley Memory Café said a huge thank-you to Derek by holding a tea party in his honour at Twyford House on Wednesday afternoon.

“He has done so much,” they said of Derek’s support for people living with dementia and their loved ones.

Grandfather Derek, of Church Street, who turns 80 today (April 11), was instrumental in the birth of the charity in May 2010 and was its first chairman.

Angela Thompson, co-ordinator of the memory café, said: “He is a wonderful man. We wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t set it up. It was his hard work that started it all.”

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As part of the celebrations, Derek asked guests to not buy presents, but rather donate to the café’s £100,000 Admiral Nurse appeal. Derek said that, while he has not been diagnosed with dementia, growing older had made his memory slower.

He added: “We always said that we would try and get an Admiral Nurse in this area. The new trustees took it on, supported it and got behind it. It is a wonderful idea to help carers in particular.

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“It is helping the carers who are left holding the candle and helping the ones who are suffering.”

Before the arrival of the memory cafe, Mr Eagles worked on a project called Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia (REPOD).

He was asked to contact a fellow Rotarian from Cornwall with a view to setting up a memory café in Devon.

“I found out that we are one of the biggest areas in the country of people affected by dementia. We needed wonderful sponsors to get the idea off the ground,” said Derek.

Through the combined forces of both the Sid Valley and Sidmouth Rotary clubs and Devon County Council’s mental health team, the cafe started as a monthly event at Twyford House.

Derek and his wife Ann drafted in friends as volunteers and the memory café became a fortnightly occurrence and then, after a year, weekly.

“It is very satisfying to see. The volunteers are the most important thing,” he said.

John Summerside, who took over from Derek as chairman for four years, said: “I do not think we can give back what Derek has done. He has done so much.”

Trustee Adrian Ford said of Derek’s gesture: “It is very generous. He is the driving force behind setting up the memory café and he has been a big supporter of both the memory café and the Admiral Nurse Campaign.”

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