Mike Wise obituary

Martin Edwards
·2-min read

My friend Mike Wise, who has died aged 84, was the founder of a children’s hospice in Dorset called Julia’s House.

It was a chance encounter in 1985 with a children’s nurse, Julia Perks, that led to Mike hearing about her dream to create a Dorset children’s hospice. Julia was diagnosed shortly afterwards with cancer, and so Mike took up the challenge, telling her before she died that he would name it after her.

He registered the Julia’s House charity in 1997, and after six years of fundraising it was able to employ its first two children’s nurses, who created a community care service for Dorset. He then began to supervise the building of the hospice itself, which opened in 2006.

A decade later the charity set up a second establishment, this time in Wiltshire. Over the years the two facilities have helped hundreds of children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.

Born in Willesden, north-west London, to Harry, an aircraft fitter, and Pearl (nee Glasser), a couture milliner, Mike went to Townfield secondary modern school in Hayes, Middlesex, and took an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering before doing national service in the RAF. He then worked as an engineer for various companies, including Crane Mechanical Seals in Slough (1959-67) and the Nuclear Power Group in Leicestershire (1967-70), before moving into production management with the De Vilbis Group in Bournemouth (1974-76).

In 1977 he changed tack by becoming head of establishment at the Seaview Centre in Poole, a special education scheme for 16-19 year olds, staying until 1986, when he established and headed the Courtyard arts and crafts centre near Poole, working there until his retirement in 1999.

Outside work Mike became a governor of Longspee special school in Poole, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Poole and Purbeck councils, and a non-executive director of South East Dorset primary care trust. An amateur poet and story writer, he also founded the Wimborne Writers Group.

I joined Julia’s House as its chief executive in 2005 and was mentored by “chairman Mike”, who had a word of advice and a joke for every occasion. In 2007 he was appointed MBE, but typically credited the honour to the hard work of the Julia’s House volunteers.

In his private life Mike was stoic in the face of tragedy. Two of his three daughters predeceased him: Elspeth from Huntington’s disease and Emma from bowel cancer.

He was married first in 1958 to Morag Hopkins, the mother of his three daughters, and then in 1981 to Linda Cook. Both marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his daughter Vicky, sister Ann, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.