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Gloria's Story

Gloria Alexander, who has Parkinson’s, was surprised to discover how much she has benefitted from the care and support of the specialist medical team at Saint Francis Hospice and the inspirational people she meets when she attends the Day Therapy Unit on a Wednesday. 


And we were blown away when she revealed that she had worked alongside some of the biggest stars on the silver screen during a career spanning more than 20 years. 


 This is Gloria’s story…………………    


Gloria Alexander has played the roles of some of the most famous leading ladies but you will probably never have heard of her! 


This is because from the early 1960s to 1980s, Gloria worked as a film double and stand-in for actresses including Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Angharad Rees, Goldie Hawn, just to name a few.   Gloria Alexander laughing with a patient


She worked alongside Frank Sinatra in The Naked Runner, The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night, Roger Moore in The Saint and Steve Forrest in The Baron where she doubled for actresses in minor stunts. 


Gloria was a dancer on the set of A Man for All Seasons, which starred John Hurt, played the part of a maid in a film starring Farrah Fawcett, appeared as a factory worker in the 1968 film Up the Junction and worked on the British private detective series Randall and Hopkirk in the 1960s.  Gloria Alexander laughing with a patient


She also worked on the saucy Carry On comedies and the gothic horror Hammer Films. And she has so many stories to tell about the celebrities she met over the years.  


Gloria describes the actors Oliver Reed and Dick Van Dyke as among the “loveliest” people she has met and says her biggest claim to fame was introducing Goldie Hawn (who is currently in the UK to promote her new comedy Snatched in which she stars alongside Amy Schumer) to crochet when she worked as her double on the film Girl in my Soup (1970). 


“One day I was crocheting on the set and Goldie Hawn came up to me and asked if she could watch me as she’d never seen it before,” said Gloria, “She said she would go and get some wool and she started crocheting. 


“Over the years I’ve read articles about how much Goldie loves crochet and her house is covered with items that she’s crocheted.” 


Gloria started out as a dental nurse when she left school and insists she had no ambitions to be famous but it was an aunt who worked in the film industry at the time who persuaded her to give it a go.   Gloria Alexander laughing with a patient


“I am proud of what I did and I got to meet so many people that most people could only dream of meeting,” said Gloria. 


“I was lucky to get all the stand-ins that I got at the time and that was enough for me.  “In the end, I had to give it up as I had two children and I could not keep getting up at 3am to get to the studios.  


“The hours were very long and I would often get home in the early hours of the morning and have to go back to work that day. 


“But I miss all the characters I used to meet and we would have such a laugh. 


                                                                                         Gloria crocheting at the hospice


“A lot of the time I would be sitting and chatting with someone about the most mundane things and half the time I did not know they were famous stars.” 


Now 75, Gloria is still very beautiful and it is easy to see why she had the star quality to succeed and survive in notoriously cut-throat industry.  


And it is Gloria’s incredible determination that enables her to continually finds ways to overcome the obstacles that her health puts in her way.  


“You cannot drift into nothingness and be submerged in pain,” said Gloria, who later went on to become a Tai Chi instructor and achieve a first-class degree in art therapy at the age of 55.  


“I cannot say I have not done that at times but I have forced myself out of it because I want to live my life.  


“Having learned so much and experienced so much I do not want to waste it.   “You have to take advantage of everything and never give in.” 


Fiercely independent, Gloria found herself struggling to cope on her own and when she was referred to Saint Francis Hospice earlier this year it opened up a world of support she never knew existed. 


“I would never have thought I should go to somewhere like Saint Francis Hospice for help,” said Gloria.  


“My idea of a hospice was one of a place where you only go when you are shortly to pass away.  


"Before I came to the hospice I felt so isolated, I was struggling to sleep and was in so much pain. 


“I never knew that I could get this type of support and the fact that the staff liaise with other health care professionals on my behalf takes so much stress off me. 


“If I had not had that support I would have got worse and worse and not been able to walk.


"I am forever grateful for all that they have done for me. 


“At the hospice, there isGloria Alexander laughing with a patient this underlying comfort because you know people are looking after you and people are looking to see if you are ok and I’ve never had that.  


“What they do at Saint Francis Hospice is like gold.” 



And taking part in the arts and crafts sessions means she can continue to do what she loves best.  


“Art is like music for me as it refocuses me away from my pain,” said Gloria, who exhibited a piece of wax art at Central Library  in Ilford, which was then chosen to appear on the front cover of an ebook for poetry being launched by Birkbeck college in London.  


“As I spend a lot of time on my own, it is really nice to be able to sit, share, talk and do something creative with other people.  


“I am accepted with my shakes and I get the feeling that I belong and I did not expect to feel like that.  “I am in awe of what Saint Francis Hospice does and I am in awe of the people who go there.”