Death of the 'remarkable' Dennis Keech whose £1m donation launched appeal to build Luton children's hospice

'Our children’s service is Dennis’ legacy and he has left the community a remarkable gift'

By Steve Sims
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 4:18 pm
Updated Friday, 21st January 2022, 1:33 pm

Keech Hospice Care has today announced the sad news that the man whose £1m donation began the charity appeal to build a children's hospice for Luton has died.

Dennis Keech OBE, aged 90, was the largest benefactor of the children’s service and made the generous gift in 1997 with his wife Shirley.

Speaking during the appeal, Dennis said: “I’m thrilled the children’s hospice has reached this stage so quickly. I just wish it wasn’t necessary in the first place.”

Dennis Keech donated £1 million towards the creation of Keech Cottage Children’s Hospice in 1997, now named as Keech Hospice Care

At its opening in 2000, Dennis described the occasion as "absolutely marvellous" and even laid the last roof tile himself.

In 2010, Dennis and Shirley returned to Keech Hospice Care to mark the 10th anniversary of the children’s service, cutting the birthday cake and commenting: “We’re very proud, very happy and very impressed.”

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On hearing the sad news today (January 20), Liz Searle, CEO at Keech Hospice Care, said: “Mr Keech was a remarkable man, a very clever businessman and a passionate supporter of Keech Hospice Care.

Dennis Keech and his wife Shirley pictured at the opening of the Courtyard Garden at Keech Hospice Care in 2017

"In November, he joined us at The Big Trunk Trail auction night we held, and we spoke of how far the hospice has come and how much he had enjoyed being involved in the Trail. We met regularly and he always had advice and ideas, he will be very much missed by all the staff and volunteers here at the hospice – irreplaceable. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.

"Without Dennis’ incredible generosity and continued support, Keech Hospice Care, as a charity, would not today be able to care for seriously ill children or support their families, making the difference when it matters the most. Our children’s service is Dennis’ legacy and he has left the community a remarkable gift."

Since its beginnings, Keech Hospice Care’s children’s service has cared for 1,487 children and supported 2,841 of their family and friends, across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes.

Ms Searle said: "We will continue to take care of the charity as it goes from strength to strength and we will pass his legacy on to the next generation to do the same."

Local businessman Dennis Keech (left) laying the final roof tile

Dennis was widely known for saving local wiper business AC Delco in Dunstable from closure and had links to manufacturing, property, telecommunications and design.

In 1996, he was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with an Order of the British Empire medal for services to the motor manufacturing industry. He also met with TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they visited in 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the adult service at Keech Hospice Care.

What are your memories of Dennis Keech? Has your family benefitted from the hospice's work? Email [email protected] .

THE HISTORY: The adult hospice, which was originally called the Luton and South Bedfordshire Hospice, opened in 1991 and was founded by a group of dedicated local fundraisers, led by former GP Dr Wink White.

In 1997, the charity started an appeal to build a children’s hospice on the same site and, thanks to the generosity of Dennis Keech, Keech Cottage Children’s Hospice was officially opened in the year 2000.

In the same year, the organisation as a whole was renamed The Pasque Charity. The new name was applied to the Pasque Adult Hospice, but the children’s hospice remained Keech Cottage. In 2009, both parts of the charity were united under the name Keech Hospice Care. Keech Hospice Care is the adult hospice for Luton and south Bedfordshire, and the children’s hospice for Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes.