Vietnam legacy of kind Isabella

Isabella Kelly.
Isabella Kelly.

A woman who spent her life caring for the underprivileged and the poor has died aged 75.

Isabella Liguori Kelly, who was awarded the MBE for services to nursing, treated Kim Phuc, the naked girl in the iconic image depicting children fleeing from a Napalm bombing during the Vietnam War.

FILE - In this June 8, 1972 file photo, crying children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, run down Route 1 near Trang Bang, Vietnam after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places as South Vietnamese forces from the 25th Division walk behind them. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. From left, the children are Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

FILE - In this June 8, 1972 file photo, crying children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, run down Route 1 near Trang Bang, Vietnam after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places as South Vietnamese forces from the 25th Division walk behind them. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. From left, the children are Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Isabella’s brother John Kelly said: “She nursed the girl on that famous photo (pictured right). She went round the world to places no-one wanted to go, helping people with mud huts who had nothing.

“She never married or had children but she had thousands of children surrounding her. She brought all sorts of faces together. She was totally dedicated to the human race, warts and all.”

Isabella was born in 1940 in Morecambe and went to St Mary’s school before attending the Convent of Mercy Boston Spa.

She trained to be a nurse at Preston Royal Infirmary, Billinge Hospital Wigan and Whiston Hospital for those suffering from industrial burns.

After her training, she travelled to Kitwe in Zambia where taught people how to use improvised drips when there weren’t any actual drips available.

Many years later, while visiting the grave of William Wordsworth in Grasmere, she met one of her former pupils who she trained in Zambia and who with a great cry of joy, ran to greet her.

Later she volunteered to assist in a maternity unit in Peru and with the Franciscan Missionaries of Saint Joseph, contributed to the wellbeing of children both in England and across the world, especially in Africa and Latin America.

She then did TB nursing in the Seychelles, before travelling to the Barski unit in the-then Saigon caring for children with burns from Napalm and other chemical agents. A back injury meant a return to England and long service in the Lancaster and Morecambe area as a health visitor alongside her colleague Dorothy Hampson.According to her brother John, Isabella and Dorothy made a formidable pair and were well-known in the Morecambe area.

It was during this time that Isabella was awarded her MBE for services to nursing.

John Kelly said: “She was an amazing person.Her biggest legacy was she never judged anyone.She never smoked, never drank and lived the life of a nun but still got cancer.”

Isabella, of Slyne Road, passed away four years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Her sister Mary Bernadette, also died of cancer the day after her 21st birthday in 1963.

She is survived by brother John Kelly, who was deputy head at Ripley St Thomas, Lancaster and her brother Patrick Kelly, who before he retired was Archbishop of Liverpool.

Requiem mass will be said in St. Mary’s Church on Thursday, March 3,at 12.15pm followed by committal at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium.