Kate Middleton calls lonely pensioner while secretly volunteering

‘Call me Catherine!’ Kate Middleton has been secretly volunteering during the pandemic and making long calls to cancer-stricken 85-year-old who cares full-time for his wife with dementia

  • Connected with Len Gardner, of Batley, West Yorks, via Royal Voluntary Service
  • Len has bladder cancer and cares for his wife Shirley, 84, who has Alzheimer’s 
  • Pair enjoyed two lengthy conversations during the first lockdown this year
  • Len said 30-minute chats with Duchess gave him ‘something to look forward to’ 

Kate Middleton has been secretly volunteering during the pandemic and made two lengthy calls to a lonely cancer-stricken 85-year-old who is a full-time carer for his wife with dementia.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 38, who embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the UK yesterday with Prince William to thank frontline workers, was connected with Len Gardner, of Batley, West Yorkshire, via the Royal Voluntary Service earlier this year.

During their long chats in the first lockdown, Kate talked to the pensioner about Italian food and watching sheep shearing with her children – and she even sent him a pasta machine afterwards, reports The Sun. 

Grandfather Len, whose wife Shirley, 84, has Alzheimer’s, told the publication: ‘Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be talking on the phone to the future Queen of England.

Kate Middleton has been secretly volunteering during the pandemic and made two 30-minute calls to a lonely cancer-stricken 85-year-old who is a full-time carer for his wife with dementia

The Duchess was connected with Len Gardner, of Batley, West Yorkshire, pictured, via the Royal Voluntary Service earlier this year

‘I will treasure our conversations for the rest of my life. Those calls helped me because they gave me something to look forward to.’

According to Len, who has bladder cancer, is undergoing radiotherapy and had an operation last week, the Duchess dispensed with formalities when he asked how he should address her, telling him: ‘Call me Catherine.’

‘After the first two sentences I didn’t feel like I was talking to someone so important,’ he recalled.

Kate first called Len on May 13, while she and Prince William, 38, were in lockdown at their Anmer Hall home in Norfolk with their three children Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two. 

Yesterday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the UK to thank frontline workers for their work throughout the pandemic

Len described their 30 minute conversation as ‘wonderful’, adding that the Duchess told him Prince George and Princess Charlotte were playing in the garden while she kept an eye on them through the window.  

They discussed Len’s love of Italian food and Kate asked him if he made his own pasta. He replied that he doesn’t because he hasn’t got a machine nor the particular flour required. 

Three days later, Len said a brand new pasta machine arrived at his home from Kate, followed by two kilos of special flour from Buckingham Palace two days later. 

‘I can tell you, this lady you see on television that goes into the crowds and talks to people — what you see is what you get. She is a very, very nice person,’ Len said.

Following the kind gesture, Len penned a thank you note to the Duchess, telling her he now uses the machine once a week.

Len said Kate and William (pictured during a video call last month) are a ‘brilliant couple’ for reaching out to people and it’s now top of his ‘bucket list’ to meet the Duchess in person

He also included a couple of articles he’d written for a local magazine and a photograph of him and Shirley on holiday.

The reply from Prince William and Kate now has pride of place on Len’s ‘Royal Wall’ above a letter from the Queen congratulating him and Shirley on their 60th wedding anniversary in 2018.

Len was stunned when, a month later, he received a second call from Kate – and this time the pair chatted for 40 minutes.

He told how Kate took the children to see the sheep shearing in Sandringham because George and Charlotte struggled to understand how the wool is removed without killing the animals.

Len, who has two grown-up sons, Ian, 57, and Andrew, 54, said it was the sort of conversation he might ‘have with anyone’ about their family.

According to Len, who has bladder cancer and has been undergoing radiotherapy and had an operation last week, the Duchess dispensed with formalities when he asked how he should address her

He added that Kate didn’t mention her husband much and he felt she was keen to speak to people outside the Palace and in the north of the country to hear their experiences during the pandemic.

Len and Shirley have been very involved with the Scouts throughout their lives and they spoke about the organisation, of which Kate is joint President.

He said Kate and William are a ‘brilliant couple’ for reaching out to people and it’s now top of his ‘bucket list’ to meet the Duchess in person. 

What is the Royal Voluntary Service? 

The RVS is one of the largest volunteering organisations in the country to date, inspiring and enabling over 3 million people to give their time to help others to meet the needs of the day.

Nearly 20,000 volunteers a year already give their skills, experience, and time to help people in the community and in hospitals.

The Duchess of Cornwall has been President of the RVS since 2012 and is a passionate believer in ‘active ageing’, encouraging older people to get involved with a variety of community initiatives. 

Len, who had a brother at the D-Day landings and a sister in the Land Army, said it took a long time for him to ‘swallow his pride’ and ask for help from the Royal Voluntary Service, as he was was brought up in an era when you didn’t accept charity.

He and Shirley used to attend social groups hosted by the RVS, and when those stopped due to Covid-19 the organisation sorted volunteers to take care of Len’s shopping and check-in with regular calls. 

Len has kept busy during the pandemic by redecorating his kitchen and writing a book about his life – as well as spending precious time with Shirley, taking her out for picnics when restrictions eased over the summer.

He admitted he often feels lonely, especially in the evenings, and struggles with the fact his ‘intelligent’ wife now can’t communicate with him like she used to.

The RVS is one of the largest volunteering organisations in the country to date, inspiring and enabling over 3 million people to give their time to help others to meet the needs of the day. 

It runs the NHS Volunteer Responder programme with the GoodSAM app, which recruited over 500,000 volunteers during the first lockdown – however it’s now encouraging more to sign up for the winter months. 

Catherine Johnstone CBE, the Royal Voluntary Service CEO, told The Sun: ‘We are incredibly grateful to The Duchess of Cambridge for kindly supporting the NHS Volunteer Responders programme. 

‘Her “check-in-and-chat” call to Len has meant the world to him. It’s so important to highlight the power of conversation… you really can make someone’s day.’ 

Source: Read Full Article