THE daughter of Stourbridge community stalwart Dorothy Clarke MBE has paid an emotional tribute to her mum who passed away just days after they were able to hug each other for the first time since the pandemic took hold.

Catherine Marshall told in October of the heartache at being unable to hold or hug or even see in person her 92-year-old mum who she said had become a care home prisoner since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.

Stourbridge News: Dorothy Clarke Dorothy Clarke

Dorothy, who ran a popular senior citizens group in Pedmore for many years, moved into residential care at Oriel House in late 2019 after the death of her husband of nearly 70 years - Terry.

Stourbridge News: Dorothy Clarke pictured with her husband Terry who died in late 2019Dorothy Clarke pictured with her husband Terry who died in late 2019

Alzheimers had already begun to take its toll on her but just a few months after saying goodbye to her home in Hagley Road - Dorothy was left bereft of visits from family and her many friends after the care home, like many across the country, locked down and banned visitors to try to protect elderly residents from the virus.

Within just a few short months though Dorothy had become a shadow of her former self, her daughter Catherine told in the hope of encouraging the government and care homes to allow residents a way of seeing their loved ones.

Stourbridge News: Dorothy Clarke pictured in the care home garden last summerDorothy Clarke pictured in the care home garden last summer

The story of Dorothy's plight moved many who knew her in her more active days and just weeks later as the country prepared for another national lockdown in November the government said care homes could allow visiting of sorts with strict Covid safety measures in place.

Catherine, however, said apart from a garden visit in the summer all of her efforts to see her mother were limited to window visits.

Shortly before Christmas, during one visit, she noticed through the glass that her mother's feet were swollen and not long after she was taken to hospital.

Catherine said she was terrified to hear her mum had been rushed to A&E but was also overcome with emotion at the thought that she could finally hug her.

Reunited in the emergency department, as patients with dementia are permitted to be accompanied, the pair could not stop smiling.

Stourbridge News: Catherine Marshall pictured as she was reunited with her mum Dorothy Clarke at Russells Hall HospitalCatherine Marshall pictured as she was reunited with her mum Dorothy Clarke at Russells Hall Hospital

Catherine said: "I hadn't held mum for nearly 10 months - we just held each other."

Dorothy's condition, however, was incredibly frail but after checks by medics she was returned to the home.

Within a few hours of being sent back, however, she suffered a fall and was returned to A&E - this time requiring complex hip surgery from which she never recovered.

Her daughter Catherine praised hospital staff who permitted her to spend the final hours with her mum and she said: "I just held hands with her for 18 hours non-stop. I just couldn't let go. I knew that was all I had.

"She was unresponsive but I'd like to think she knew I was there and that she knew she wasn't abandoned. At least I was there for her at the end.

She said she had been permitted to accompany her mum until she was taken into theatre and she told the News: "I said 'see you when you get out' and she said 'you mean the world to me'. Those were the last words she said. After the surgery she wasn't able to speak."

She is now faced with the prospect of planning her mother's funeral - which will be a far cry from the kind of service "with all the bells and whistles" that she would have likely hoped for.

Catherine said: "We're incredibly restricted with numbers. There would have been hundreds of people like there were at my dad's. So many people knew mum.

Stourbridge News: Dorothy Clarke pictured with husband Terry as they marked their 65th wedding anniversaryDorothy Clarke pictured with husband Terry as they marked their 65th wedding anniversary

"We hope to have a nice memorial service for her at some point but goodness knows when that will be."

She said her mother had played a huge part in the community of Pedmore - having run a pensioners' group at St Peter's Centre, Pedmore, for more than 30 years and a similar group in Halesowen, and in 2013 she was honoured with an MBE for her services to elderly people in the Black Country.

Stourbridge News: Dorothy Clarke pictured with her MBE, with David Rogers who also collected an MBE from Buckingham Palace that day in 2013Dorothy Clarke pictured with her MBE, with David Rogers who also collected an MBE from Buckingham Palace that day in 2013

Yorkshire-born Dorothy had trained as a secretary and worked in a variety of administrative posts, always as a manager - Catherine said, during her working life; and in her later years she raised thousands of pounds for charity including for Mary Stevens Hospice. She also raised funds to help create the parish rooms at St Peter's Church as a community facility.

Catherine said: "She had a truly amazing life, so full and she achieved so much and gave so much. It was just sad that the last months were so sad and difficult for her. She's with dad now, at peace.

"I'm glad she's been released from the turmoil, the dreadful turmoil that she was in."

She said she would receive "agitated phone calls every day" from her mum in the months that visiting was prevented and she added: "She couldn't understand why we'd abandoned her - that was her last nine months lived like that."

She said she would continue to campaign, along with Rights for Residents, for the rights of the elderly in care homes.

She told the News: "People are dying because of what's happening. It's quite horrific. It's still going on. Where's the compassion? I will continue to fight in mum's memory. I still feel horrified by it. Mum is one of the victims of it. There's a huge sadness there."

But she said she's trying to now "focus on the person that she was and the person that she's made me" and she added: "She'll live on in all of us. We'll continue to reflect the person that she was in the lives that we lead."

Dorothy leaves three children - Catherine, Caroline and Timothy, six grandchildren - Anna, Chia, James, David, Elizabeth and Victoria, and five great grandchildren.

Her funeral will be held at St Peter's Church at 12.30pm on Tuesday January 19.

For full details people can contact funeral directors Hickton Family Funeral Directors in Cradley Heath.

Catherine said she hoped those living locally who knew Dorothy may step outside to pay their respects, in a socially distant way, as the cortege heads to the church along Pedmore Lane at around 12.15pm.