Tree planted in memory of Holy Cross Hospital stalwart

Sisters, patients, staff and friends of Holy Cross Hospital gathered on Friday (22 March) for a tree planting ceremony in memory of Sister Mary Agnes, a former matron and Sister Superior at the hospital.
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Sister Mary Agnes came to Holy Cross in 1981 when the hospital had 100 beds which were mainly occupied by NHS patients attending for maxillo-facial surgery, end-of-life care, neurological and elderly care.

Within a short time of arriving as matron, it became clear to Sister Mary Agnes that the hospital would either have to make major adaptations to continue to serve the changing needs of the NHS or find an entirely new role. Determined to continue the hospital’s work in caring for people with very severe neurological conditions, Sister Mary Agnes worked tirelessly to oversee the building of a new 40-bed hospital which opened in 1992.

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After retiring in 2002, Sister Mary Agnes continued to play a leading role both in the community and at the hospital as Sister Superior. It was her inspiration that led to the construction of the hydrotherapy pool and out-patient physiotherapy service which is used today by many people from Haslemere and surrounding areas.

The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey plants a tree in memory of Sister Mary Agnes.The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey plants a tree in memory of Sister Mary Agnes.
The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey plants a tree in memory of Sister Mary Agnes.

The memorial tree is an Acer griseum and was planted by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Mr Michael More-Molyneux who was accompanied by his wife Sarah. Inviting the Lord Lieutenant to plant the tree was made more poignant by a story shared by Dr Karin Sehmer, former High Sheriff of Surrey and member of the hospital’s advisory committee. Dr Sehmer spoke fondly about Sister Mary Agnes and described how she had taken her to a Royal Garden Party and that the only person she had wanted to meet was the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey!

The lovely slow-growing tree, which is commonly known as paperbark maple, was chosen for its decorative bark which is the colour of cinnamon and its leaves which turn brilliant shades of orange and scarlet in the autumn.

The tree has been planted in view of the hospital and is marked by a commemorative plaque which was unveiled by Holy Cross Hospital’s Chief Executive, Frances Campion-Smith.

Sister Mary Agnes died on 13 December 2023 after a long illness.

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