Family's tribute to much-loved former marine in week-long river kayak

From left to right, Sean Johnson, Jon Fitzgerald, Claire Crosswait and Rob Tweddle.

From left to right, Sean Johnson, Jon Fitzgerald, Claire Crosswait and Rob Tweddle. - Credit: Jon Fitzgerald

Siblings and friends of a former marine have paid tribute to him with a week-long fundraising kayak.

Lee Fitzgerald, from Gislingham, near Eye, was found dead on Winterton beach in March last year after he had been reported missing.

His siblings Jon Fitzgerald and Claire Crosswait, whose family are from Attleborough, and his former Marine colleagues and close friends Sean Johnson and Rob Tweddle took part in the week-long fundraiser in his memory in October.

The #PaddleForFitz team set off on a week-long paddle from October 15, journeying down the 354-kilometre River Severn and spending up to eight hours per day on the water.

They camped near the river, Mr Fitzgerald said, and benefitted from the kindness of strangers, including a pub landlord who treated them to a meal.

As well as a tribute to Lee, who most recently worked in security, it was also a way of raising awareness of and funds for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health charities. So far, including gift aid, they have topped £13,500.

Mr Fitzgerald said: "This challenge was in memory of our beloved brother Lee, to raise awareness of the impacts of PTSD and to help those that support the families in piecing together their lives following suicide. Lee left a mark, a story or an everlasting memory with everyone who knew him."

Former marine Lee Fitzgerald.

Former marine Lee Fitzgerald. - Credit: Jon Fitzgerald

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He said after Lee went missing they had been amazed by the instant support they received.

"Lee Fitzgerald was a much-loved son, brother, husband, dad, friend and Royal Marine veteran," he said, adding that they had been contacted by people reliving stories and fond memories, "which has shown us just how loved he was".

"We never knew how difficult Lee was finding everyday life, so we wanted to support organisations helping other families like ours," he said. "We are passionate, too, about giving something back to the Royal Marines. Lee’s time as a Marine made us so proud, and the many friendships he formed there have helped us so much since his death."

The fundraiser supported the Royal Marines Charity (RMA) and Hope After Suicide, which has provided support to the family.

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