'Born tough, stay tough': Determined 105-year-old completes Captain Tom-style challenge in memory of husband

·4-min read
Hilda
Hilda Duncombe turned 105 and celebrated by walking 105 laps of her care home garden in aid of the Alzheimer's Society (Hilda Duncombe)

A pensioner has been heralded as "inspirational" after raising more than £11,000 in memory of her late husband who died from Alzheimer's Disease.

105-year-old Hilda Duncombe has spent the past three years fundraising for the Alzheimer's Society. Inspired by the late Sir Captain Tom Moore she began with 103 laps - one for each year of her life - in May 2020. 

Having racked up more than £8,000 in donations she was inspired to mark her 104th birthday by completing 104 laps, adding again to her fundraising total.

Her most recent challenge was to walk 105 laps of her care home grounds the the three weeks leading up to her 105th birthday on 26 October. She did so with support of fellow residents at Bartlett Residential Home in Aylesbury as well as local MP Greg Smith.

Hilda's husband, Stanley, died of Alzheimer's Disease in 2001. The couple were married for 60 years and Hilda spent the last few years of Stanley's life caring for him.

Hilda told Yahoo News UK: "Alzheimer's is cruel, it's an awful disease, so I do what I can to help.

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Hilda thanked friends from Bartlett's Residential Home for joining her on her fundraising walk (Hilda Duncombe)

"I don't think I'm special, I just do what comes up. I think 'can I do it?' and if I might be able to, I try.

"My family and friends probably think I'm a bit eccentric, but they put up with me."

When told she had raised more than £11,000 Hilda exclaimed: "Well that's a fortune!"

Hilda has been a resident at Bartlett's for three years and staff have commended her energy and determination.

Manager Kavita Salhotra told Yahoo News UK that Hilda is "inspirational".

"She's a very grounded lady," said Salhotra. "But what she does, it's inspirational. She is always smiling and has many friends here. All the staff are in awe of how much Hilda has raised. We are very proud."

Having completed her walk, Hilda celebrated her 105th birthday in style "with a bit of a party". 

She said: "We had a lovely time, it was a great day."

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Local MP Greg Smith joined Hilda on one of her birthday walks (Hilda Duncombe)

And Hilda even received a very special surprise guest when former Paralympian Robin Surgeoner MBE dropped by to wish her many happy returns. The retired swimmer won nine gold medals for Team GB across three Paralympic Games and staff said he popped by to congratulate Hilda on her achievement on her special day.

Hilda, who had one son and two daughters with Stanley, also has 27 grand and great-grandchildren in total.

She added: "The staff and my friends and family have been really supportive and they keep me going. I think if I can do something then I will do, I'm lucky that I still can.

"I think if you're born tough you stay tough, so I guess I'm just lucky."

Tim Waters, Alzheimer’s Society Community Fundraiser, told Yahoo News UK: “Hilda has been a real inspiration to all of us, taking on such a challenge with a huge smile on her face. 

"Having already raised an astonishing £11,000 for us over the past three years, I understand she’s got no intention of stopping yet. Hilda is a truly remarkable lady, and we are very grateful for her support.

Hilda raised more than £8,000 when she was 103 by walking 103 laps of the care home garden (Hilda Duncombe)
Hilda raised more than £8,000 when she was 103 by walking 103 laps of the care home garden (Hilda Duncombe)

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“The last 20 months has been tough for everyone, but for many of the people living with dementia, the impact of coronavirus has been catastrophic. Every penny our fundraisers collect will make a huge difference by providing a lifeline for people affected by dementia.

“We are in awe of amazing supporters like Hilda whose fundraising efforts help fund our services, like our Dementia Connect support line, which have been used over six million times since the first lockdown began in March 2020, showing that people need us now more than ever.”

To donate to Hilda's fundraising campaign, visit her JustGiving page here.

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