Obituary – Joan Hunt OBE, founder and honorary president of cancer hospice foundation Cudeca

by Deborah Cater
Joan Hunt, OBE, holding the symbol of Cudeca, a sunflower. Image: Twitter/Cudeca
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Joan Hunt, OBE, died aged 92 on June 24th. The Cudeca Foundation announced her passing on social media. Cudeca is a non-profit organisation offering professional medical care to patients suffering from cancer or other advanced illnesses, as well as support to their families.

Known across Malaga province, Joan Hunt created an organisation that gives palliative care to patients of terminal illnesses and support to their family – breaking down barriers as she did so.

Cudeca – Joan’s legacy to the Costa del Sol

Joan’s husband Fred died of cancer just a few years after they retired to the Costa del Sol in 1984. Fred’s death made her aware of the need for palliative care, and Joan resolved to fill that gap in service to families in the same situation as herself.

As Cudeca’s medical director Dr Marisa Marín wrote in a tribute to mark Joan’s 90th birthday, “[Fred’s illness] awoke a positive, caring energy in her that became the driving force of something as wonderful as her vocation to help others at the end of their lives. Against all odds, at the age of 65, this Englishwoman who knew few people in Malaga, who did not speak the language and had few resources decided to create the incredible project called Cudeca”.

Joan’s determination has helped thousands of patients and their families over the years in the Malaga province. Both Spanish and foreign residents benefit from the work of Cudeca.

Cudeca stands for Cuidados del Cáncer – Cancer Care and was legally established as a charity in 1992. Initially, care was provided in the patients’ own homes. However, Joan dreamed of a hospice that would provide round-the-clock care for those in their final days.

A day care centre opened in Arroyo de la Miel in 2001, followed by the in-patient unit in 2005.

An extraordinary life

Joan was born on 5 January 1929 in Liverpool, the eighth of nine siblings. Her mother died when Joan was just 16. However, her mother paid for private secretarial courses for Joan when she was 14, setting her on course for a successful business career. 

Casa Las Dunas Spain

By 1974, Joan was head of personnel for a multinational firm with 14,000 employees. It was those organisational skills that stood Joan in good stead as she united the local and international communities to create Cudeca.

Joan received numerous awards over the years. Among them were: the OBE presented to her by Prince Charles in 2002; the Málaga Woman of the Year Award in 2005; the Professional Achievement Award 2005 by the Spanish Federation of Women Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs (FEDEPE); and the Premio del Día de Andalucía from the Junta de Andalucía in 2015.

In 2013, Benalmádena named the roundabout next to the hospice after Joan. The mayor spoke of the town’s “gratitude to and admiration for” Joan Hunt. She added, “the president of Cudeca is a role model and a great example of dedication, generosity and humility”.

Joan officially retired as president of Cudeca in 2014, taking on the title of honorary president.

Joan’s final message

In their announcement of Joan’s death, Cudeca said, “Her last days were calm and peaceful, with moments of humour and laughter, and others when Joan decided to take charge of the situation.

She told us that she was ready, and that she needed to go. And she went as she wanted to, quietly and without fuss […]”.

Joan left a final message, that Cudeca shared. Her wish was to be remembered by donations to Cudeca Hospice.

Joan Hunt - final message

 

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