'A huge loss': Tributes paid to former Ilford care home manager

Usha Surendra Patel, who died aged 71 on June 24 2021

Tributes have been paid to former shopkeeper and nurse Usha Surendra Patel, who died last month aged 71. - Credit: Ashish Patel

Family, friends and former colleagues have paid tribute to an Ilford woman who has died after a life dedicated to public service. 

Usha Surendra Patel worked in Ilford for decades as a shopkeeper and a nurse. 

On the way to her funeral yesterday – July 5 – the procession made a short stop outside the Woodlands Care Home, where former colleagues lined the street to pay their respects. 

Her youngest son, Ashish Patel, 39, said: “The level of service that she did – in the shop, as a nurse, running the nursing home – very much epitomised her, it was all about service. 

staff at Woodlands Nursing Home line the street to pay tribute to their late colleague Usha Patel

The funeral procession made a stop outside Woodlands Nursing Home. - Credit: Ashish Patel

“All the while, doing all this good stuff, working, serving, she made sure that her family life was very solid.” 

Born in Nairobi in 1950, Usha came to England at the age of 14 and studied nursing, later working as a sister in the Royal Brompton Heart and Chest Hospital. 

She married Surendra Rambhai Patel in 1974 and together they had two sons, Nikin and Ashish. 

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In 1978, the couple bought a corner shop in Green Lane, Ilford, which they ran for the next 20 years. 

Ashish, a strategic consultant living in Wanstead, recalled how Usha ensured that elderly customers were delivered supplies and groceries. 

In the 1990s, when Woodlands Nursing Home arrived on Gordon Road, near the family’s shop, Usha retrained in nursing and began working there. 

She would go on to serve as nursing manager at Woodlands for almost 27 years, dedicating her time – both inside and outside office hours – to the care of the elderly and their families. 

Even after retiring, Ashish said his mum would still volunteer there.

staff at Woodlands Nursing Home line the street to pay tribute to their late colleague Usha Patel

Woodlands Nursing Home staff pay tribute to their former colleague Usha. - Credit: Ashish Patel

He said that charity was a huge part of Usha's life, both locally and internationally – he recalled how she would raise funds to pay for weddings for young couples in India who could not otherwise afford to get married. 

She was also remembered for her generosity to individuals in need. 

Mayuri Parmar Amin, 33, is among those Usha helped, getting to know one another when Mayuri was just 14 and her mother was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.  

As a family friend and trained nurse, Usha helped care for Mayuri’s mother, and, when she passed away a few years later, stepped in to guide her young daughter.  

Mayuri said: “She is one of those people who just gave and gave and gave.  

“She was there to kind of guide us and support us, right up to two years ago when I got married.   

“At a Hindu ceremony you always have your parents who give you away as part of that and because my mum wasn’t there, she took my mum’s place at the wedding. 

“No matter what was happening in her life, personally or at work, if I needed her she would be there, whether it was just a hot meal or a shoulder to cry on. 

“I don’t think there will be anyone else like her again. It’s a huge loss. She’s going to leave a great big hole for so many people.” 

Ashish said: “Mayuri is for all intents and purposes a third sibling now because Mum effectively adopted her once she lost her mum and was that motherly figure. 

“We all talk about gender empowerment nowadays – in many ways I feel like my mum was a trailblazer for that. 

“Linked in with the nursing home, there were many people who would come without a level of qualification or perhaps from an abusive relationship, and they would need a job.  

“If my mum felt they were trustworthy and they were good people, she would support them. She would help them do their vocations, give them shifts when they needed them.  

“These are the people who make communities and that makes me proud.

Usha, 71, died on June 24th and is survived by husband Surendra, sons Nikin and Ashish, daughters-in-law Priya and Alka, and her four grandchildren, Mishika, Eesha-Lara, Ruhi, and Ananya. 

In tribute to Usha, the family are raising money for sewing machines for destitute families in rural India.