“The best prompt that the company has ever seen”
Geoff Mortimer shared a love of pantomime with his wife, Jenny, before she died of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer, in January 2009. Now he’s using the communication skills he developed through their shared hobby to continue her wish of supporting Marie Curie through volunteering – as well as leaving a gift in his will to the charity.
An artistic talent
“We both loved the pantomime”, says Geoff. “I was a dame for 32 years. She was the director and if she wasn’t directing she was probably the best prompt that the company has ever seen.
“She was also the best director because when she put her effort into anything it had to be 100% and she had to do it perfectly. She really was so artistic and it was just a pleasure to be with her.”
Life and soul of the party
“Before we were married, Jenny was a wages clerk at the National Coal Board as it was then, in the Midlands. Later on, she worked as an office manager in a big toy shop, and she used to serve on the local panto committee. She loved meeting people.
“If we went to a party, it was Jenny that was always the life and soul. I used to be sitting quietly in a corner sipping away with a whisky or something.
“But I’ve changed. Since doing the pantomime I’ve become a lot more extrovert and able to talk to people without feeling embarrassed, you know?”
Carrying on a wish
Marlene was part of the pantomime group as well. She and Jenny became best friends, and Jenny started helping Marlene with her local fundraising for Marie Curie in Llantwitt Major.
“Jenny would help with the coffee mornings, or the tea parties. And when she couldn’t do that, she’d send a cheque for £50 to help her boost Marlene’s takings.
“Before she died, Jenny asked me, she told me, she wanted me to carry on the work she started with Marlene in supporting Marie Curie, and I promised her that I would.”
Support with the grieving process
“Jenny was diagnosed in the middle of November of 2008, and she died on the 13 January 2009. So it was only two months from the point of diagnosis to when she passed away. We were married 46 years at that point.
“I was coping quite badly with my grieving. My closest friend is a district nurse and she said, ‘Are you alright?’ and I said, ‘No, I think I need some help’. I got some counselling and therapy at the Marie Curie Hospice, Cardiff and the Vale. It really turned my life around.”
Doing something more
After that, Geoff decided to do something more for Marie Curie. As well as helping Marlene with local fundraising events, he started volunteering in one of the Marie Curie offices and helping with collections. Then he started thinking about the future.
“I knew I wanted to change my will because I wanted to leave some money to the church, which had been so good to my wife while she was so ill. At the same time I then thought, ‘Oh, OK, I ought to do something for Marie Curie as well.’
Getting out and talking to people
“The prime object of what I’m doing at the moment for Marie Curie is to raise funds. But there’s a spin off. The secondary spin off is that it is a therapy for me. Because I’m getting out and meeting people and doing things it is stopping me from becoming morose, and what have you, at home.
“It gets me out and gets me talking to people. I love talking to people. I’ve met some very interesting people when I’ve been out collecting. There are some wonderful stories of courage and dedication.”
“It makes me feel good about myself as well as feeling good for the charity.”