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Gifts that keep on giving

An older couple, smiling at the camera

Continuing kindness

How Bob and Joyce left a legacy of kindness by leaving a gift in their will.

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Leaving a gift in your will ensures vital work can continue after your death. It’s what Bob and Joyce Dumper did for various charities, including Age UK, which received £223,000 to help us provide our life-enhancing services and vital support. Here we pay tribute to a couple who believed in people and a better future.

Different people, shared passions

In some ways, Bob and Joyce were very different. Bob was an extravert and the life and soul of the party. A friend recalled having never met ‘a man with his lust for life and his unending quest for the best in music, theatre and books’.

Joyce, on the other hand, was more private and administrative, bringing organisation to the dynamic. “There’s always got to be balance in a relationship, hasn’t there?” suggests Rowell Bell, 80, a long-time friend and former student of Joyce’s who acted as their executor. “You know, like Morecambe and Wise. Bob and Joyce were like a comedy act, and she balanced it.”

An older couple, smiling at the camera
Bob and Joyce were kindred spirits
An older couple, smiling at the camera
Bob and Joyce were kindred spirits

The couple, who married in 1954, had fundamental things in common. They were social butterflies, who liked nothing more than bringing people together. They kept a guest book filled with visitors’ rave reviews that referenced their wonderful hosting, and a fully stocked cocktail trolley. They were both brilliant teachers, too. A friend suggests Bob’s adeptness at the job came from him being ‘a student all of his life’, but for Joyce, the daughter of a teacher, it was a more vocational pursuit.

Bob taught students who had left school, some of them without any qualifications. Joyce would say that Bob lived by the maxim that every human is worthwhile, so wanted his students to work to their full potential, even if they didn’t understand what that potential was. Bob was a figure of tireless encouragement, who managed to persuade many of his less confident proteges to go to university. Rowell recalls a young man who suggested he would likely join his father’s farming business after his studies, but Bob, who saw more in him, ensured he fulfilled that greater promise. As a result, the young man eventually became a very successful corporate lawyer.

Joyce was equally committed to her role, progressing to Head of Faculty of Arts. She was an all-rounder who also taught English, French and History, as well as heading up special events such as carol services and prize giving ceremonies, where she’d defy her quieter nature by acting as master of ceremonies. She would put her organisational skills to good use by planning school outings and trips abroad, pushing for funding to make them possible. She was well liked and respected; a head teacher she worked with remarked upon her loyalty, support, honesty and friendship.

When people lose their other half, after all those years, there comes a time when friends have gone and you’re alone at night – and that’s when it’s hard.

Rowell, Bob and Joyce's friend and executor

Later life challenges

Bob and Joyce were no strangers to the challenges that later life can bring. They had cared for Joyce’s mother before her death in 1984, converting their garage into a granny annex for her to live in. And in the years that followed, once both Bob and Joyce retired in 1991, they began to witness friends they’d known for decades grow older and die.

Bob became unwell shortly after the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary. He was taken to hospital, and whilst there he fell and broke his hip. Sadly, his health steadily deteriorated, and he died in 2015, having never returned to his own home. “It was so upsetting,” recalls Rowell, who would take Joyce to the hospital and respite care home Bob was in during that period. “Joyce was just broken after Bob died.”

Understandably, Joyce became lonely in the years afterwards. “She was not alone,” clarifies Rowell, “but obviously when people lose their other half, after all those years, there comes a time when friends have gone and you’re alone at night - and that’s when it’s hard.”

Bob’s loss had a profound effect on Joyce. “I think that’s why Joyce remembered Age UK in her will,” suggests Rowell. “That’s what Age UK can help with – to make sure no one feels lonely.”

Joyce became unwell just before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. She was cared for at home for a while, but her declining health meant the decision was made for her to go into a care home until a longer-term plan was worked out. With the arrival of COVID-19, however, Joyce was no longer able to come home.

As the executor of her will but not her power of attorney, Rowell was unable to see Joyce once COVID restrictions were in place. “It was upsetting for me,” he recalls. “I had this chat on the phone with her, and we were looking forward to when we could meet again, and the next thing I know, she’s stopped eating.”

Unable to see her one last time, Rowell’s friend suggested he could write something for her. He picked out a photograph from his wedding of Joyce with his mother, laughing happily. Rowell was told Joyce lit up when she saw it.

Sadly, a week later, Joyce passed away. “I wasn’t allowed to go to the crematorium because of COVID-19, so I stood on the hill in the park and thought about her,” says Rowell. He remembered one of her sayings which illustrated the silver lining she always found in things: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.’

That’s what Age UK can help with – to make sure no one feels lonely.

Rowell, Bob and Joyce's friend and executor

Together again

Rowell is happy he was able to keep a promise he made to Joyce, that her ashes be scattered with her beloved Bob in a place that meant a lot to them both. Snape Maltings is an area of natural beauty sitting on the bank of the River Alde, on the Suffolk coast. To ensure Bob and Joyce were truly together on their final journey, Rowell combined their ashes before they were scattered.

“The world had lost two very good eggs,” reflects Rowell. “I hope I see them again.”

So, what would Bob and Joyce have made of this celebration of their generosity? “I don’t think Joyce would have liked all this publicity I got for them,” Rowell admits, “but I think Bob would have been delighted. If Joyce wants to give me a detention when I get through those pearly gates, that’s fine.”

Leaving a legacy

Bob and Joyce have left a legacy of kindness, providing older people with comfort, friendship and support for years to come. If you are interested in leaving your own legacy by supporting Age UK with a gift in your will, email legacies@ageuk.org.uk, or call 020 3033 1421.

Free Wills Month

Taking place every March and October, Free Wills Month gives Age UK supporters aged 55 and over the opportunity to have a simple will written or updated for free by a participating solicitor.

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Last updated: Mar 01 2024

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