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Colchester: 'Inspirational' Hospital chaplain dies aged 64

PUBLISHED: 12:58 22 July 2011

Senior chaplain at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Father Richard Smith, has died aged 64.

Senior chaplain at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Father Richard Smith, has died aged 64.

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A HOSPITAL chaplain who has been described as an "inspiration to many" during his 26 years working in Colchester has died.

Father Richard Smith, who was 64, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home in Colchester in the early hours of July 14.

Father Richard was the senior chaplain at Colchester General Hospital, Essex County Hospital and the community hospitals in Clacton and Harwich.

Dr Gordon Coutts, chief executive of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, said: “His presence will be greatly missed, not least in the corridors, wards and in the hospital restaurant as he was always accessible for a chat or just to pass the time of day.

“His transparent and committed faith, as well as love for people, has been an inspiration to many.”

He leaves a brother, Edward, who lives in Northampton, and a distant cousin, Raymond Hughes, with whom he lived in Squirrels Field.

Mr Hughes said: “Richard lived and breathed Colchester General Hospital and was usually there six days a week.

“It has been so difficult for me telling his many friends of his sudden death, many of whom are now feeling totally bereft.

“Father Richard was devoted to the Lord and religion was his way of life – he prayed morning, noon and night and celebrated Holy Communion every day.”

Mr Hughes said that his cousin was fond of overseas travel, especially to the United States, and also during his time in Colchester studied for two degrees, one of which was a Master of Theology degree awarded to him by Westminster College, Oxford, in September 2000.

Father Richard was born in East Ham, London, in 1947 and after leaving school worked for East Ham Borough Council and then started training as a psychiatric nurse.

During this time, he became more conscious of his religious feelings and enrolled at night school as preparation to enter Bishop Burgess Theological College, St David’s University, Lampeter, in 1972.

He was ordained in Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff, in 1975 and worked in different roles in Wales, including a spell as a chaplain at Port Talbot steelworks. He worked in Bournemouth for four years before coming to Colchester in 1985.

As well as being a minister, Father Richard was also a qualified psychotherapist and was still working as a therapist up until his death.

His work in the health service was acknowledged by the Church of England when he was made a canon of Chelmsford Cathedral.

Hospital chaplain the Revd Mark Thompson, who had worked with Father Richard since 1994, also paid tribute to him.

“He was a dedicated priest, pastor and therapist who has left a remarkable legacy of a vibrant and committed chaplaincy team, which includes more than 40 lay chaplains,” he said.

“He gave considerable pastoral and spiritual support to countless patients and members of staff, and the team will continue his work.”

His funeral will be held at the Church of St James the Great, East Hill, Colchester, on Monday July 25 at 10am.

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