Back to the Abbeyfield Society: this time as a tenant!

Back to the Abbeyfield Society: this time as a tenant!

Former Abbeyfield Chairman, Michael J. Staff, tells how he has come back to the Abbeyfield Society – this time as a Holdenhurst tenant!

I retired from branch banking in 1991, after a lifetime career. I’d spent 25 years in the City of London rising to junior management, followed by 16 years in senior management in Brighton and Eastbourne.

When I retired, I was approached by the Abbeyfield Eastbourne Society Chairman to fill the post of Financial Director. This was a volunteer role involving two hours a week.  In the last 15 years of my working life, I had been involved with the finances of the Eastbourne Blind Society and Eastbourne Senior Citizens Club. I was also on the foundation committee of the Eastbourne Association of Voluntary Services and St. Wilfred’s Hospice in Eastbourne – all on a voluntary basis.

Honoured by the Queen

To my surprise, in 2010 I was honoured by the Queen at Windsor Castle with an MBE for my services to charities in East Sussex. It’s fair to say I was familiar with the duties of a volunteer when I joined Abbeyfield!

Unfortunately, my first wife Brenda passed away a year after I retired, from breast cancer so perhaps the chance was timely. A year after I joined the Eastbourne Society, I was approached by the Regional Chairman to take over the role of Regional Treasurer for South Eastern England. I filled this role for 5 years, which involved me working with 45 Abbeyfield societies in the region.

We are very happy to have moved into our lovely apartment this April. We are now enjoying the benefits of 30 years of dedication to the support of older people; with the improvements achieved in my tenure as Chairman at various levels. It is good to be back in an Abbeyfield property again, only now as a resident!

Michael J. Staff MBE, Holdenhurst tenant

Abbeyfield Society Chairman

My role as Regional Treasurer meant that I sat on the National Finance Committee, of which I became Chairman two years later, and a member of the National Board.  Finally, after three years I was invited to become a Trustee and Chairman of the National Society which involved me in a lot of travelling around the UK and our societies in Canada and Europe. 

This meant that I had occasion to meet with the Abbeyfield patron, HRH King Charles III and various members of the Royal Family. Plus, I was able to attend Buckingham Palace for the annual garden party. During my time with the regional team, I had the good fortune to meet Ruth, my second wife. She was Regional Staffing Adviser, and widowed, and we married in May 1996.

In the meantime, locally I had become Chairman of the Eastbourne Society. We focused on modernising the then-existing three houses, with en suite facilities and lifts. After discussion with the other East Sussex societies, it was agreed that it would be better both financially and strategically to merge into one company.

Beginning the redevelopment of Holdenhurst

I became Chairman of Abbeyfield South Downs Limited. Firstly, we planned to redevelop our house in Heathfield, known as Holdenhurst.  In 2016 we had just started on the plans when, unfortunately, I was struck down with three cancers – and advised by my doctor to retire immediately from active duties.

In 2021 the board advised me that the rebuild of Holdenhurst was virtually complete. They invited me to look over the development of the property that I had initiated. As Ruth and I have both become somewhat disabled we felt that we should consider moving in! We duly applied in 2022 and are very happy to have moved into our lovely apartment in April.

We are now enjoying the benefits of 30 years of dedication to the support of older people; with the improvements achieved in my tenure as Chairman at various levels. It is good to be back in an Abbeyfield property again, only now as a resident!

Michael J. Staff MBE