Loved and lost: Families pay tribute to Covid victims one year on
- Credit: Families of Covid victims
Families have paid tribute to their loved ones exactly a year on from the first national lockdown, as the total number of Covid deaths in Suffolk nears 1,500.
In total, 265 coronavirus patients have died at West Suffolk Hospital and 1,231 at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which consists of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals - as well as Aldeburgh Hospital which recorded one death.
Here, we remember some of those who have lost their lives to the devastating disease.
Margaret Bennett, aged 73, from the Whitehouse area of Ipswich, is fondly remembered by family as a "kind and loving lady who loved having fun and making people laugh.”
Grandson Chris Bailey said his nan, who died on December 11, 2020, loved cooking, in the past having run a lunch club at Mayo Court in Ipswich.
He said: “She would love nothing more than having her family visit for dinner, where she would dish up multiple servings and always have several desserts prepared.
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“She was an incredible baker and was always in the kitchen, cooking up cakes and other treats to send out to her family and friends.
"During the first lockdown we would stand outside her flat and she would throw cheese straws down to us in bags from the top floor."
Mrs Bennett had two children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Mr Bailey added: “She liked gardening and enjoyed trips to Felixstowe, and loved going to the amusement arcades to play on the 2p machines.
“Nan was very fond of bingo and hoy and played regularly with the other residents where she lived, and also enjoyed their music nights and weekly fish and chip lunches.
"She was always willing to help anyone out, and never afraid to speak her mind, and will be sorely missed by everyone that had ever known her.”
Mimi Naomi Burt
Mimi Naomi Burt, who grew up in Coggeshall and lived in Ipswich since 2003, sadly died with coronavirus at the age of 89.
She was loved by her son Karl Burt, daughter-in-law Julie Burt and granddaughters Jessica and Aimee.
She was described by her granddaughter Jessica as the "most kind and caring person you would ever want to know".
"She was so friendly and bubbly and would always make me laugh," she said.
"We are such a close-knit family and nana will always be missed. But her memory will carry on."
Growing up, Mimi worked as a baker and had a love of knitting, eventually knitting cardigans for her granddaughters.
She was married to husband Brian for many years until he sadly passed away in 2002 and spent more than 20 years caring for him before his death.
Linda Keevil, aged 65, was part of a very close-knit family of seven sisters and two brothers and she lived in Ipswich all her life.
She loved her job as a dinner lady at Ravenswood Primary School and deeply loved her children and grandchildren.
Her sister Marina Keevis said: “There was only 11 months between us and we were really close so it did hit us hard.
“When she used to go to work at the school, she used to pass my bungalow every day and most days she’d call in and I really miss that.
“In the first lockdown she would come and sit in our front garden and I would sit by the bedroom window and we would just talk a lot. I used to get a garden chair out ready for her.
“She idolised her grandchildren Tia and Jayden and she was the life and soul of the parties.
"She was so funny and loved by so many people.”
Since Robert Bird passed away in late 2020, his family have been inundated with letters from those who knew him from his colourful life — a testament to the impact the 'proper Ipswich boy' had on those around him.
The 78-year-old worked in the navy between 1958 and 1983 and his service took him across the globe to the USA, India, Borneo and the Falklands.
He was also an instructor at the Ipswich seas cadets, a school governor at Chantry High School, an active member of the royal British legion, the Royal Navy association and the Poppy Appeal.
A father of five and grandfather of seven, Robert moved back to Ipswich after leaving the navy and worked for the council until his retirement.
His daughter Rebecca said: "He really was the best dad ever. He had such an influence on people just by always being willing to help.
"He was marmite, you loved him or you hated him and he was a larger than life character.
"A real ladies man, he was always a charmer and the kindest, most generous to all around him — he'd go out of his way to help anyone."
Robert passed away on December 27, joining his beloved wife Julie who passed away of cancer in 2015.
Ipswich's Steven Flewitt, who was suffering from lung cancer, was admitted to hospital earlier this year with Covid-19.
His family felt that the chemotherapy was effectively treating the cancer, but his condition deteriorated due to complications from the virus.
The former Ipswich port worker leaves behind his wife of 45 years, Jean, daughters Kelly and Julie and sons David and Gary. He also had 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Kelly said: "It all happened so fast. We were so heartbroken. He just wasn't strong enough to fight it even though the chemo was beating the cancer.
"My dad was very funny, very comical. He was such a gentle soul that would do absolutely anything for anyone.
"He was a wonderful dad and granddad. I haven't got one bad memory of him."
Tributes have been paid to mum-of-two Sue Lockett from Felixstowe by her daughter, Steph.
The retired Morrisons worker, and former Ipswich Premier Inn front desk receptionist, died at the age of 59 on Friday, November 13 2020.
Her daughter Ms Lockett, said her mum “loved her rag doll cat Lilly who slept beside her until her last breath at home.
“Sue also enjoyed going out to Cuppa and Costa for coffee and a cake with her sisters and niece Suzy.”
The 29-year-old added she is still shocked by her death.
“It just happened all so fast and suddenly.
“We thought she’d be okay and get through this.
“She went to bed one day, and got under the covers and just didn’t wake up.”
Some of the family, which includes Mrs Lockett’s husband Trevor, son James, Steph and her children, Charlie and Chloe, also had Covid-19 symptoms.
“We all wore hand gel and masks and someone still caught it and it spread somehow."
The 29-year-old added: “She was a really lovely person with an infectious smile.
“She really did what she wanted to do in life.”
Two of her sisters, Rosemary and Jean, also died in 2020 with one of these deaths also linked to Covid-19.
Mrs Lockett is also survived by her sisters Pat and Ursula and brother Ken.
John Chapman worked as a carer in Felixstowe for more than a decade and became well-known for his role as a dementia and Parkinson's champion.
His wife Claire said he would constantly be recognised in the supermarket and would spend hours talking to others about his work.
He sadly passed away last April after spending three weeks in hospital with what turned out to be coronavirus.
As well as his wife, John left behind two sons, Steven and Ryan.
His mother Susan described her son as "a hard-working member of the care sector".
She added: "He was always up for a laugh. He was more than happy to dress up for the residents at the homes.
"He was the kind of person who was made to look after people. It really suited him."
Saima Toqir Bilgrami, a much-loved healthcare assistant from Ipswich who attended Northgate High School, was diagnosed with coronavirus in April last year after working in a Covid ward at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) in Harlow.
Mrs Bilgrami, who moved away from Ipswich a few years ago with her husband Naveed, spent 146 days on a life support machine after “giving everything she could to help others” in her role with the NHS.
Mrs Bilgrami was admitted to hospital on April, 2, and celebrated her 10-year anniversary with her husband Naveed the following day.
She sadly died on Wednesday, August 26 after a long battle fighting Covid-19 – leaving her family, friends and colleagues distraught.
Mr Bilgrami described his wife as his “forever friend”, who he said was smiling up until her last hours.
Former police hero and Stars of Suffolk winner John Hood, from Felixstowe, sadly died on Tuesday, March 24.
He was described as a “kind, generous and courageous man” by his partner, Nita Crossley, who he lived with.
The 66-year-old developed symptoms of Covid-19 more than a week before his admission to Ipswich Hospital on March 20.
He immediately went into self-isolation and fought the illness until his condition worsened and he sought medical help.
Nita said: "John was a kind, generous and courageous man. He lived life to the full and he will be hugely missed.”
In 2016, Mr Hood won a Stars of Suffolk award for diving into the sea off Felixstowe beach to rescue four girls. Despite having a pacemaker to correct a slow heartbeat, he swam 250m to the aid of the girls who were in danger of drifting out to sea in a rubber dinghy.
Malcolm Pridmore, aged 56, of Shotley, was the “best grandad and is missed terribly”, step-daughter Amy Reeveley said.
Mr Pridmore, who passed away on May 13, 2020, was well-known and much-loved in the community, after running a burger van at Shotley Gate for more than three years. He also worked in the maintenance team at Spring Lodge Care Home in Ipswich.
The father's family described him as “their rock”.
Amy said: “He loved life and Paula with all his heart. He enjoyed holidays to Greece, especially Corfu. He loved owning the burger van and having a laugh with all the locals. He was the best grandad and he is missed terribly."
The Arsenal fan, who suffered a heart attack four years previously, was taken to hospital on April 11 with symptoms of the virus. His family had hoped he would pull through, but he died more than a month after he was admitted.
Youngest daughter Jess said of her step-dad after his death last year: ““He was lovely, caring, thoughtful and was always smiling. She said he was "a very happy man who was always smiling and joking around”.
“He used to love spending time at Shotley Sailing club with my mum and Corfu was his happy place.”
Dr Fayez Ayache
Dr Fayez Ayache was described as the “epitome of kindness” by his devastated family following his tragic death in April last year, aged 76, after testing positive for coronavirus.
The grandfather who worked for the NHS in Suffolk for more than 40 years was born in Damascus in Syria and moved to the UK in 1973 to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
He took his first post as a GP at Constable Country Medical Practice where he worked for more than three decades.
He came out of retirement and only stopped working during the pandemic due to being instructed to stay at home.
His daughter Layla said: “Dad was the epitome of kindness, he was diligent, generous, honourable, a very peaceful man and he was very dedicated.
“His main passion in life was his family, especially his granddaughter Paisley, and of course his work – they are what he truly lived for.”
Ian Ward, originally from Debenham, was a retired maths teacher at Stowmarket Middle School.
His family described him as the "kindest, gentlest father and grandfather" after his death with coronavirus in June last year.
He had been admitted to hospital with an unrelated illness when he contracted Covid-19.
His daughter, Susanna Woodsford, said: "The school paid a tribute to him and said he was a strict but fair teacher. Everyone really loved him and people said some really lovely things.
"He had a really good sense of humour and was so kind. He never saw the bad in anyone and always gave people second and third chances.
"He was just a really kind, nice all-round man."
Philip Phillips was described by his granddaughter Kimberley Dye (known as Kimmy), as being a "truly special man" and one of the kindest she knew.
Mr Phillips died at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on February 1 aged 81, after spending three weeks in hospital.
He co-owned the Stowmarket Exhaust and Tyre Centre for many years before retiring and enjoyed travelling to different countries with his wife Marlene, who he met when he was just 18 years old.
The pair particularly enjoyed going on cruises and visiting their holiday home in Majorca, where they shared lots of family holidays.
Kimmy said her grandfather, who had four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, was "someone everyone looked up to".
"He was a role model to everyone and we all admired him; including his family and friends," she said.
"He sat at the top of the family and was loved by everyone he met throughout his life."
When he was younger Mr Phillips enjoyed his boxing and fishing, but his main hobby as he got older was his love for holidays.
Kimmy fondly remembers going on pedalo boats with her grandfather or driving through the mountains.
By night, he would be singing Elvis songs on the karaoke and sip on a lumumba drink.
She added: "We also loved our family BBQs together in the summer and grandad's homemade punch was not for the weak!
"Words cannot describe how much we all miss him and love him with all our hearts. My hero, my grandad."
One of the first coronavirus deaths in Suffolk was Pat Bewley, who died on Tuesday, March 24, the day after the Prime Minister told people to stay at home.
Mr Bewley, who had recently been celebrating his 80th birthday, died at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds three days after being admitted.
His son, Paul Bewley said: “Back then there was more of a stigma around dying from Covid, now there isn’t.
“A lot of people have died now.
“We’re not bitter about it. The government has just been doing its best and my father wouldn’t want us to be.”
The family, which includes his mum Beryl Bewley and sister Helen Brown, will not be gathering during the anniversary of his father’s death.
“Unfortunately, my mum is in a bubble with my sister. So we’ll have to wait.”
The death of the grandfather-of six, from Stowupland, also led to an outpouring of grief from the local community, who sent hundreds of cards to Mrs Bewley.
“He was a scout leader for a number of years, and he was just a really nice warm and gentle man,” his son said.
And after living in Suffolk for decades, Pat’s family from the West Country, who he had lost contact with, also got in touch to pay tribute.
'Selfless' grandmother of seven Helen Brooks was all about helping others with her work for Jobcente, which continued even through her illness.
The 66-year-old lived in Stowmarket and battled several cancers for 10 years, being told her condition was terminal.
She had married her husband Robert aged 18 and had three children with him; Claire, Helena and Ruth.
He said: "She was such a selfless lady. All she cared about was looking after other people, everything was about everybody else.
"Even in the hospital she was talking to young people about their jobs. That's just how she was. She must have helped countless people."
Granddaughter Abby said Helen was like a second mum to her, seeing her every day.
She added: "She has passed on so many things, such as how strong she was.
"All the time she was sick she never complained about it. She was such a fighter throughout it all. She made such a difference to so many people's lives.
"I am just so fortunate to have had the privilege to be her granddaughter."
Sadly, Helen passed away on New Years Eve 2020 and daughter Ruth has shared her gratitude to the healthcare staff who took such good care of her.
"Seeing what the nurses did was unbelievable. It was heart-breaking. I can't thank them enough.
"I am going to miss her so dearly."