'Celebration' to remember adventurer

THE father of an adventurer who disappeared in the Himalayas seven years ago is to hold a celebration of his son's life.

James Hore

THE father of an adventurer who disappeared in the Himalayas seven years ago is to hold a celebration of his son's life.

Joel Kitchen was last seen in April 2002 as he went out paragliding in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh but never arrived at his intended destination.

His anguished family went out to India in a bid to trace the 25-year-old from Brightlingsea but neither his body or the remains of his paraglider have ever been discovered.

Now, Joel's dad, Bill, is planning a weekend of celebrations in his son's memory which comes as the legal process to formally declare his death is being completed.

The weekend, in July, will begin with an evening of dancing, singing and sharing memories at the Brightlingsea Community Centre followed the next day by a picnic and riverside walk to a memorial bench.

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Guests are being invited to contribute a memento, such as a story or photo, to be stored in a “treasured chest” for the family.

Mr Kitchen, a teacher at Brightlingsea Junior School, said family, friends, and a supportive community has helped him through the past seven years during which his wife, Angie, died from cancer.

He said: “Before Angie died we had spoken about what we would do in Joel's memory and had discussed having a book or box of treasures to tell future grandchildren about him.

“This winter my youngest son, Ben, said 'did you realise it will be seven years, this year?' which means Joel can now be legally declared to have died.”

The family are currently in discussions with the Indian and British authorities about confirming Joel's death and it made them realise they wanted to mark the occasion.

The evening of dancing will be held at Brightlingsea Community Centre - where Joel featured in several plays as he was growing up, including The Grand Old Duke of York.

Mr Kitchen, 58, said: “It has a positive feel there and we wanted to have something lively - nothing torpid or miserable - and we used to run barn dances there for Friends of the Earth.”

Joel's brothers, Ben and Chris, along with his best friends, plan to speak about their memories and there will photos from different parts of his life.

As well as the memorial bench, overlooking the River Colne, Mr and Mrs Kitchen created an area at the school known as “Joel's Forum” which is used by youngsters during lessons and at playtime.

Anyone who knew Joel and would like to attend the celebrations on July 17 and 18 can contact Mr Kitchen on 01206 304245 or e-mail kitchensevergreen@hotmail.com