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Mr Bob Dunnett , 1937-2016: An appreciation

Bob was a tirelessly hard-working member of the Faculty of Health Studies’ Service User and Carer Group, and the School of Dementia Studies Experts by Experience Group. I first met Bob in 2008, when I joined the local Alzheimer’s Society branch committee. Bob was already a member by then, having promised his wife, Bonnie, when she developed dementia, that he would continue working with the Society after she died in order to ‘give something back’ for all the support they had received.

And Bob certainly did give something back. He helped set up the group ‘On the Road Again’ providing outings and holidays for people with dementia, family caregivers and former carers. These are very convivial events. My colleague, Sarah Smith and I, went on holiday with the group early in 2014, and struggled a bit to keep up with the degree of conviviality, if truth be told. Originally aligned with Bradford Alzheimer’s Society, the group was re-branded in 2012 as the independent ‘Friends Together’ group, due to changes which prevented Alzheimer’s Society being involved in social activities. Bob raised £2338 for ‘Friends Together’ funds in four years, plus further sums from his famous garden party raffles.

Bob started to help with teaching Dementia Studies students in 2010. He also sang with the Happy Memories group – a group of people with and without dementia who sing together for companionship and enjoyment who have many public engagements, including a regular Christmas concert which has been taking place at the University for the past five years.

From 2012-14, Bob was an advisory group member on a research study about film-making with people with dementia who live in care homes. No sooner did we find that many of the participants did not have their own DVD players in order to be able to watch the films they made with us, than Bob was on the case. He sourced several DVD players through the car boot sales he attended and brought them in at no charge to the project.

Bob also helped us with an event which was part of the Bradford Science Festival, agreeing to have his life story investigated in order to demonstrate how digital storytelling works. And what a life story it was. Born in Glasgow in 1937, Bob ‘ran away to sea’ when he was 14, and spent many years travelling the globe with the Merchant Navy. A big fan of country and western and ‘easy listening’ music, he had played in a band himself and also loved boxing and sea fishing.

In 2015 Bob was one of several members of our Experts by Experience panel who took part in filming for Higher Education England e-learning modules on Dementia Awareness which will be used throughout the UK health and social care sector to enhance understanding of how to implement person-centred dementia care. His voice will live on through his contribution to modules on Understanding Dementia and Challenging Stigma, see for example -

The last project that Bob was involved in with us was a Department of Health-funded study aimed at improving the quality of education and training related to dementia across the UK. It was while taking part in this study that Bob became ill. Having last been at the University in November 2015, we heard early in the New Year that he had been in hospital a couple of times. We were able to visit him there, but sadly just a few days later – having been discharged home - Bob passed away on the morning of 8th February 2016. The funeral was held at Nab Wood Crematorium on the 19th February.

Our thoughts go out to Bob’s son Arthur, grandson Curtis, and all the family and friends who will miss him so much, as do we.

Dr Andrea Capstick

Centre for Applied Dementia Studies