Guide dog fundraiser leaves a lasting legacy

Martin Segal turned around the charity Israel Guide Dog Centre UK


Martin Segal with a puppy at the Israel Guide Dog Centre

The Executive director of the Israel Guide Dog Centre UK, Martin Segal, has passed away at the age of 58, leaving a gaping hole in the charity he gave so much to, but with a legacy that will last for many years to come.

Martin thought about charity until the very end, his grieving widow, Rebecca, told the JC. “A couple of weeks before Martin passed, he met with the fundraising manager at the hospice to discuss what he could do to help with the fundraising.”

Cared for during the final stages of cancer at the Rennie Grove Peace Hospice in Watford, “he wanted to help the hospice that looked after him”, said Rebecca. Now she is hoping to plan a cycle ride in Martin’s memory, which will raise funds for the hospice.

Rebecca, who does administration for the Israel Guide Dog Centre UK, was at Martin’s bedside until the very end. “We were soulmates,” she said. Rebecca and Martin married in 2011, and she became the mother to Martin’s son, Natan, as Martin’s first wife had passed away, also from cancer.

Martin’s life was dominated by charity. He started off at the Israel Guide Dog Centre UK on a voluntary basis and rose to become the executive director. Rebecca said: “He completely turned the charity around.” She said that “everyone wanted to be his friend” and he that he’d had a way with charity donors, with whom he had forged great relationships.

The Israel Guide Dog Centre UK is planning to sponsor a puppy in Martin’s memory.

After his first wife passed away from a brain tumour, Martin volunteered for the Astro Brain Tumour Fund. When he was diagnosed with cancer himself, he set up a support group for people with esophageal cancer. Rebecca now wants to help keep the group going.

The lives Martin touched were apparent at his funeral, when hundreds of people crammed into the hall and more spilt outside, including fellow patients from the support group, police officers from his son’s brigade, members of the Community Service Trust (CST), whom Martin volunteered with, and the Israel Guide Dog Centre’s CEO, who had travelled from Israel, along with the rest of the charity’s board.

One friend on whom Martin left a lasting impact was Mason Bloom, a cycling buddy to whom Martin introduced the Israel Guide Dog Centre UK. “Martin got me to fall in love with this charity,” said Mason, who eventually became its treasurer.

It was Martin’s work ethic that inspired Mason so much. “He never stopped working.” Rebecca, too, described him as a “real doer”. She said: “Once he got an idea in his head to help people, he was very determined.”

Mason first met Martin when the charity man introduced the local scout group to a guide dog. The pair established a strong friendship, “We would go cycling all over together,” Mason said. They were joined by other friends, including Damon Shaw, one of Martin’s closest friends, who was at the hospice when he passed away.

Towards the end of his life, Martin used an exercise bike at home, but he missed riding outside. Mason attended the cycle ride for the hostages in central London on Sunday and said: “Martin would have been on that ride to bring back the hostages.”

“Martin was absolutely committed to Israel,” Mason said. He will travel to Israel in his friend’s memory in February, when he will spend a week volunteering at the Guide Dog Centre and plan a memorial.

As a devoted friend, family man, father and husband, Martin Segal's life was a testament to the power of selfless giving. His legacy of compassion and dedication will undoubtedly endure.

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