How It All Began

TCF was founded in Coventry England in 1969. Following the deaths of two young boys, Billy Henderson and Kenneth Lawley. Billy and Kenneth had died just three days apart in The Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital where Reverend Simon Stephen was an assistant to the chaplain. Simon had mentioned kBilly’s death to Iris and Joe Lawley. The Lawley’s decided to send flowers to Billy’s funeral and just signed the card simply “Kenneth’s Parents” realizing the Henderson’s would know who they were.

Bill and Joan Henderson then invited the Lawley’s over for tea, and an immediate bond was formed as the two couples spoke freely about their boys sharing all their memories and dreams that died with Billy and Kenneth. They continued to get together regularly and Rev. Stevens, 23 at that time encouraged them to invite other very newly bereaved parents to join them. In 1969 another grieving mother had accepted their invitation to meet with Simon and the other two couples. They decided to organize a self-help group and had actively began reaching out to newly bereaved parents in their own community. The word COMPASSIONATE kept coming up, so this very newly developed organization was called “The Society of the Compassionate Friends” . Simon became a Chaplin in the British Royal Navy n the 1970’s. He was met by bereaved parents at different posts around the world and helped them develop their own chapters. TCF had become very well-known through out the UK and USA due to such magazines as Time and Good Housekeeping.

Paula and Arnold Shamres of Florida had read of Simon’s interview in Time Magazine and invited him to visit them in Florida and speak to the bereaved parents there. He and the Shamres had subsequently founded the very first U.S. Chapter in 1972. Word of that organization spread rapidly due to the interest generated by “The Phil Donahue Show” and columns of Dear Abby and Ann Landers. The Compassionate Friends was incorporated in the United States as an non-profitable organization in 1978

In November 1984 Queen Elizabeth presented Iris Lawley with a medal, “The Most Excellent of the British Empire”, in recognition for her fine work on behalf of TCF.

I n 1 9 8 9 ”TCF o f G re a t B r i t a i n ” commemorating the founding of the organization at Coventry and Warwickshire hospital were TCF had begun. A plaque was unveiled by their own patron Countess Mountbatten, who herself was a bereaved parent.

There are now TCF chapters in every state in the U.S. with almost 600 chapters. Hundreds of chapters in Canada, Great Britain, and many countries throughout the world. In the U.S. chapters are open to all bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents and also other family members who are grieving the death of a child of any age, from any cause.