Former Blackpool Vic CEO and Guide Dogs volunteer who trained 28 life-changing dogs dies after cancer fight

The former CEO of Blackpool Victoria Hospital and a leading member of a national charity who helped train 28 life-changing guide dogs for the blind has died.

By Wes Holmes
Monday, 9th May 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 4:35 pm

Gerald Wildish, 80, died at Priory Court on Clifton Drive, Fairhaven, on May 3 following a seven week battle with cancer.

He was appointed CEO of the Vic in 1986 after graduating from an NHS traineeship in Oxford and finding work in hospitals all over Britain, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Darlington, Cambridge, Portsmouth, and Enfield. In 1989, following the death of his 10-year-old son David, he raised £250,000 for much-needed equipment in the hospital’s ITU and children’s wards with the help of his wife, Brenda.

He was also a keen volunteer for the Guide Dogs charity, acting as secretary for the Fylde coast branch for 33 years, during which time he helped train 28 puppies, and raised £30,000 for the support of blind and partially-sighted people.

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Former Blackpool Victoria Hospital CEO Gerald Wildish

Brenda, of Worsley Road, Ansdell, said: “He was always healthy, always the life and soul, always got on with everybody. It didnt matter who you were a lord or the newest cleaner or porter, he treated you exactly the same way. He really championed the domestic and catering staff because he knew what their job was like, because he’d done it himself, and they loved him for it.

“He was larger than life, and he’s going to leave an almighty hole in lots of different worlds. There’s tangible change in his wake and he’s got a lot to be proud of.”

Gerald, a granddad-of-four, left Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 1994 to work in Saudi Arabia before returning to England.

Gerald Wildish with a guide dog puppy

In his spare time, he was an ambitious rail enthusiast, and created an index of international articles about preserved engines dating back to the late 1800s.

Brenda said: “A fortnight before he went into hospital, he was running a railway exhibition in Doncaster and planning the next one. He had all sorts of things that he was engaged with.

"I’m left wondering what I’m going to do with thousands of railway books and magazines, thousands of photographs, thousands of model plans and trains, CDs, records – he collected so much.

“My whole world has been turned upside down in two months. I have so many friends from the Guide Dog team, neighbours, all sorts of people have come forward to offer their support. We had a big Jubilee party planned for June 5, and he was going to be there. He'll be inspecting from above now. It’s going to be a whole new world without him.”

Gerald with his grandson

Gerald was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital on March 3 after suffering from abdomen pain, and was later diagnosed with peritoneal cancer (cancer of the abdomen). He remained in the hospital for five weeks, then spent two weeks at Trinity Hospice before being transferred to Priory Court.

Rev Helen Houston, of Blackpool Teaching Hospital’s chaplaincy team, said: “Gerald was a popular leader and I know there are colleagues still working at the Trust who remember him fondly.

“He was also a committed charity fundraiser and supported both this organisation and others by raising an incredible amount of money and making a real difference to people’s lives. I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to his family at this difficult time on behalf of both myself and everyone here at the Trust.”

His funeral, with a guard of honour of guide dogs, will take place at St Cuthbert’s Church, Church Road, Lytham, at 12.45pm on May 19. Guests are asked to wear bright colours in his memory.

Gerald at Trinity Hospice