Duchess of Cambridge picks Worthing couple’s photograph for national exhibition

A touching photograph of a Worthing couple who spent their last days together holding hands in hospital is among those selected by the Duchess of Cambridge for a national exhibition.

The moving picture of Pat and Ron Wood, who were married for 71 years, is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s community exhibition, Hold Still, hosted and led by the Duchess to capture the spirit of a nation in lockdown.

As we enter the second national lockdown due to Covid-19, the picture, Forever Holding Hands, taken by granddaughter Hayley Evans, shows the value of love and has given her and her family great comfort.

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Hayley said: “My grandparents, Pat and Ron Wood, were married 71 years ago on St George’s Day. In May 2020, they were admitted a week apart to the Covid ward at Worthing Hospital. At first, they were nursed separately but were soon reunited.

Forever Holding Hands, the picture of Pat and Ron Wood taken by granddaughter Hayley Evans and selected by the Duchess of Cambridge

“Kind staff pushed their beds together and gave them their own room. They spent their final days exactly where they were meant to be and exactly how they had spent the last 71 years… together.

“Pat passed away in her sleep, lying next to her dear Ron and he followed her five days later. Together, forever holding hands.

“They appreciated the tiny things and took nothing for granted. The ability to touch when they had so little left was a gift. It was the only way to show their love and devotion.

“I took this photo with gloved hands looking through a visor. It gives me so much comfort to know, in a world where we have to distance ourselves from each other, that they had everything they ever wanted in the palm of their hands. This was the last time I saw them.”

Pat and Ron Wood on their 70th wedding anniversary. Photo by Derek Martin DM1941863a

The Hold Still online exhibition features 100 photographs taken by ordinary people during lockdown and the portraits are also now on display in towns and cities across the UK.

The photographs feature on hundreds of posters and billboards up and down the country in a community exhibition supported by The Co-op.

The Duchess of Cambridge, a keen photographer, launched the community project in May, asking people to enter photographs that showed everyday life amid the pandemic.

Over six weeks, more than 31, 000 photographs were submitted and the final 100 were chosen by a panel of judges, including the Duchess.

Pat and Ron on their wedding day. Photo by Derek Martin DM1941888a

The Duchess said: “I hope that the final 100 images will serve to showcase the experiences and emotions borne from the pandemic here in the UK, pay tribute to the awe-inspiring efforts of all those who have worked to protect those around them, and provide a space for us to pause and reflect upon these truly extraordinary times.”

The aim was to show real lives and capture the emotions of real people in response to the pandemic.

Nikki Evans, the only child of Pat and Ron, and Hayley’s mum, said: “We are so proud that ours was recognised. With the second wave, I feel strongly about the fact it could happen to anyone’s parents. Five weeks of staying at home and not seeing anyone, for my Dad to fall and they lost their lives.”

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