Werena Brophy, administration assistant at Care UK tells the story of one very special resident at Norfolk House.
“When a resident moves in to Norfolk House we get to know them and their family well, learning about their life and hearing their stories so we can give them the tailored and unique care they deserve.
Dorothy Melham (known as Dinah) is one of the inspiring people we care for. Nearing the landmark age of 100 years old, she has a fascinating story full of love, sadness, sacrifice and resilience that her family are proud to share.
Dinah was born in 1920 and raised in Claygate. At 14 she left school and became a kitchen maid to a family in Esher. She would have every Sunday off and two half days each week, and would need to be back at the house by 10pm. Dinah married her sweetheart George, who was in the Navy, in 1940 and went on to have three daughters: Frances, Joyce and Nita.
In December 1943, with a newborn baby and three-year-old twins, Dinah received a telegram informing her that George’s ship had been torpedoed and he had been badly injured. He spent the rest of his life as a patient at St Nicholas’ Naval Hospital in Great Yarmouth. His injury had caused complete and irrevocable memory loss: he never remembered Dinah or their daughters. He died in November 1983.
It was very hard for Dinah – a young woman left to bring up three children. But, in her words, she just “got on with it” and she wasn’t alone. She was helped by her lovely family. And she found a new lease of life through the Royal British Legion.
In April 1943 the Royal British Legion Women’s Section was formed in Claygate and Dinah joined with her mother and her friends. They met once a month to organise dances, jumble sales, coffee mornings and trips to raise funds for forces personnel and their families.
The Royal British Legion became like a second family to Dinah and over time she filled many different roles, from secretary and chair, to standard bearer and poppy organiser.
During her years as poppy organiser Dinah would happily turn her house into a mini poppy factory every autumn when she would prepare all the wreaths for the local shops and businesses for the November remembrance service. In the early days she would even have to add the green leaves on to the poppies.
As standard bearer she travelled to Ypres every year with the standard and she was at the Somme for the 75th anniversary. “We held many events to raise money and we attended the Remembrance Service at the Royal Albert Hall many times – it was always very emotional,” says Dinah.
Love and appreciation
She was forced to retire in 2012 – after nearly seven decades of involvement – due to ill health, but not before Dinah was presented with medals of service, and certificates ‘of esteem and appreciation’, for her many years of commitment.
Dinah moved in to Care UK’s Norfolk House care home in Weybridge three years ago and keeps her Royal British Legion medals and certificates in pride of place in her room. Many of her family are close by and visit her regularly.”
“I have a lot to be thankful for,” Dinah says. “Including eight amazing grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.”