On July 13, it was revealed that Princess Marina House in Seafield Road would be shutting its doors for good due to the pandemic and visitor numbers being expected to dwindle.
The news sent shockwaves through the village and beyond, as the care home which acted as a holiday destination for RAF veterans and their families had been an institution since 1969.
On Sunday, Ava Holland started a petition on Change.org to the board of trustees of the RAF Benevolent Fund charity, urging them to keep the home open. It picked up 1,400 signatures in less than 24 hours. On the post, she said she started it for her great-grandmother, who was a regular visitor. She said: “Family can come and stay too, and the people who stay can meet a lot of people who were also in the RAF in World War Two. This helps them make friends and relate their experiences with others.”
She added: “This is such a wonderful place for people who helped save our country in World War Two and gives them the care and lovely holidays that they deserve.
“We can’t let them close because my great grannie, along with many other people, absolutely love coming here, and after everything they did for us, it’s the least we can do for them.”
Susan Moss signed the petition. The 58-year-old healthcare worker from Woodlands Avenue, Rustington, worked a few shifts at the home and described the staff as ‘well-trained, caring, considerate and friendly’ and has since taken other clients there for lunch.
Susan’s father John Stickings, 82, was in the RAF for 14 years has also stayed at the home for the last three years when he comes to visit her and her family, because he struggled with the two flights of stairs up to her flat.
Susan said: “I know one of the things which has got him through the Covid crisis is to think about coming down to Rustington and staying at Princess Marina when we finally meet up again.
“My father lives in Derby so there is no way I can see him at the moment; it’s heartbreaking knowing it’s a possibility he will have nowhere to stay when the Covid crisis finishes.”
Jon Street, chairman of Rustington Parish Council and army veteran, said: “I’m very saddened to see it going, and I hope that people who normally visited can find somewhere else to enjoy themselves.”