Blind veteran visits late wife’s bench on Llandudno Pier after 11 months of isolation

AN 87-YEAR-OLD veteran who has been in isolation since last winter has received a surprise birthday present in memory of his late wife.

Jim Sherratt was the first person to visit the Blind Veterans UK rehabilitation centre in Llandudno since it shut in March due to the coronavirus lockdown.

His personal health problems, including blindness with one per cent vision in his right eye, as well as severe mobility difficulties, meant he had not left his house since November and spent much of his time listening to the radio.

He also remained in regular contact with Blind Veterans UK who supported him throughout the period.

“It has been an extremely difficult and testing time,” said Mr Sherratt, who served for the Royal Army Ordnance Corps from 1952-54.

“Being stuck in one room of your house for months on end is not much fun as you can probably imagine.

“Blind Veterans UK kept in touch all the way through. They were absolutely fantastic. I had a call every Thursday with five or six other blind veterans in my area which I always looked forward to. We heard what we’d all been up to during lockdown and had a great laugh together.

“Unfortunately my sight deteriorated further during lockdown so I couldn’t use my magnifier to read post and the suchlike. But once again Blind Veterans UK stepped in and provided me with a reading machine which takes a photo of the text and reads it out. It’s brilliant and saved me on countless occasions this year.”

Mr Sherratt joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps for National Service in 1952 and served in the UK, mainly as an Armourer, until discharge as a Private in 1954. It was much later in life that he lost his sight due to Diabetic Maculopathy. Luckily he found out about Blind Veterans UK in 2014 who have been supporting him ever since.

Blind Veterans UK’s centre in Llandudno, normally full of blind veterans with their partners or carers, has been empty since closing its doors in March due to Covid-19. However on September 21 it reopened with Jim being the first guest. The centre has been split into zones in order to make it Covid-safe for guests and staff alike.

“I’ve been looking forward for months to coming back here. It’s feels great to be back in this amazing place with such caring staff,” said Mr Sherratt.

Mr Sherratt’s late wife, Ivy, died in 2011 and he decided to celebrate her life by dedicating a bench in her memory on Llandudno Pier. Over the years of being exposed to the elements the bench’s condition sadly deteriorated.

Blind Veterans UK decided to celebrate the reopening of their centre and Mr Sherratt’s birthday by refurbishing the bench which will be presented to him as a surprise present on Friday, September 25.

Senior carer for Blind Veterans UK, Mark Holmes, spent the last month bringing the bench back to its former glory. After being presented to Mr Sherratt it will be placed in the grounds of the Llandudno centre.

Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90 per cent of whom are over 70 and at an increased risk from Covid-19. The National Support Service has and will continue to help blind veterans through this period of social isolation.

Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK Director of Operations said: “Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.

“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”

You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK’s response to Covid-19 at blindveterans.org.uk/coronavirus where you can also find out more about supporting the charity to make this new service possible.

But care staff decided to surprise Mr Sherratt’ by refurbishing the Llandudno Pier bench which he dedicated to his late wife, Ivy, who died in 2011.

Mr Sherratt was pictured on arrival at the centre on Monday, September 21 before visiting the bench on the Pier.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno