The sudden death of the Duke of Westminster won’t stop the high-tech rehab hospital for wounded British warriors he championed, a spokesman for the Defense and National Rehabilitation Center said.
“His untimely death will not prejudice the achievement of his ambition and the significant legacy he intended to establish,” a statement on the center’s website said of Duke Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, who died of a heart attack last week at 64.
The $386.5 million center, to which the duke donated $64 million of his own large fortune, is still scheduled to open in 2018, spokesman Ben Copithorne told FedScoop.
The center will combine existing facilities for recovering British service men and women at Headley Hall, the former stately home in Sussex, with a new national rehabilitation center for disabled civilians.
That co-location “is the bigger prize and what potentially makes the DNRC game-changing in the field of clinical rehabilitation,” Copithorne said, because it will bring together on a single site the top-ranked expertise and research and the cutting-edge technology of both civilian and military medical establishments. It will “increase the overall UK capability in this field of medicine in a way which has never been done before,” Copithorne said.
When plans for the center were finalized two years ago in July 2014, the British surgeon general, Air Marshal Paul Evans, called it “a new state-of-the-art medical rehabilitation centre” that “will provide our injured troops with a remarkable place to recover and begin rebuilding their lives.”
Evans said the center would be the “bedrock” of Britain’s development for the high-tech treatment of musculoskeletal injuries “for the next 20 or so years.”
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, who met the duke about two years ago on a trip to London and struck up a friendship with him, noted the aristocrat “would often poke fun at us Americans and our oddities,” but was nonetheless “a firm believer in the essential nature of our special relationship.”
“He felt an abiding sense of responsibility for soldiers, particularly those wounded in service, and poured his considerable talent and energy into the Defense and National Rehabilitation Center — to ensure those most in need would be properly cared for,” Ham recalled.
“I, and many other Americans, will miss him dearly.”
The duke, who retired in 2012 as a major general in the British Army Reserve, formerly called the Territorial Army, had commanded the Queen’s Own Yeomanry. Parts of the regiment, now a light armored unit, can trace their history back to 1797.
Teresa Carlson, vice president for the worldwide public sector of Amazon Web Services, another friend of the duke’s, who worked with him on projects for wounded warriors on both sides of the Atlantic said in a statement it was “truly an honor” to have known him and “to witness firsthand the passion he had for the wounded soldier community.
“His personal vision and ambition to create the Defense and National Rehabilitation Centre is an inspiration, and his legacy will continue to touch the lives of soldiers and their families for decades to come,” Carlson added.
“I’m very sad that he was taken from us at such a young age — he still had so much work he wanted to accomplish.”
“I had the pleasure of meeting the duke recently,” added Goldy Kamali, founder and CEO of FedScoop. “He was a very charismatic man, who was humble, witty and kind. He had an authentic sense of duty and service to his country. The veterans’ hospital was one of his many ways of giving back to an important cause he deeply believed in.”
According to the website of his estate, the duke is survived by his wife Tally; their four children Tamara, Edwina, Hugh and Viola; and grandchildren Jake, Louis, Zia, Wolf, Isla and Orla. He is succeeded by his son, Hugh, 25, who becomes the seventh duke of Westminster.