Tributes to A12 crash couple

DEVASTATED friends of an elderly couple who died in an accident next to a railway level crossing last nightpaid tribute to the “stalwarts of the community”.

By Richard Smith

DEVASTATED friends of an elderly couple who died in an accident next to a railway level crossing last nightpaid tribute to the “stalwarts of the community”.

Many people in Southwold were in mourning after Gerald, known as Michael, and Henny McDonald died on Tuesday evening in an accident on the A12 at Darsham.

It is believed that the elderly couple had come off a train at the railway station and were walking the few yards to their car when they were involved in a collision with a Renault car.

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Mr McDonald, 86, was pronounced dead at the scene and his wife, 84, died later after being airlifted to Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge.

The female car driver, who it is believed was travelling home from Halesworth, was unhurt.

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Mr and Mrs McDonald lived in a prestigious property in the highly sought-after location of Gun Hill, in Southwold.

Ben Marriner, who lives nearby with his wife Anthea, said: “We are a very close-knit community in Southwold with only 1,200 people on the electoral roll and a loss like this is devastating.”

His wife said: “This morning we made phone calls to let people know and then delegated the calls around, and after that I went down the High Street and people burst into tears when they heard the news.

“It is such a shock to have a double death like that in such horrid circumstances - you do not think something like this would happen to anybody you know.

“They had been to London for the day and had lunch there, which they had done plenty of times.”

Mrs Marriner said the couple were very active members of the community and were both fit, despite their years.

She added: “Henny was always very beautifully turned out and looked so smart in her clothes.

“They used to raise a lot of money for the NSPCC (The National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children) by opening their gardens every year for a coffee event.

“Michael was a marvellous gardener and his wife did the most beautiful things, making lovely quilts.

“Henny used to be a nurse and she was good at rallying people round - you did not sit there when Henny was about, she got things done.”

Ronald Whiting, a retired book publisher who lives opposite the couple's home, said: “It is shattering. They were stalwarts of the community and very sociable.

“They were both very well known in the town and the town is absolutely buzzing with the news.”

Describing Mr McDonald as “a delightful and charming gentleman”, Mr Whiting said he had served in the Navy in the Far East during the war as a lieutenant on small boats.

He said Mrs McDonald was of Dutch origin and was once a medical sister in London, with the pair being married for a “long time”.

He added: “They have had contact with Southwold since soon after the war. They came here for a holiday, bought a cottage and then they bought the present home.

“Michael had a business in the city as a spices importer and he still belonged, I think, to three city guilds.

“They used to go up to London from time to time for a lunch and I suspect that is what they had been doing.

“His wife was a very, very artistic lady both in painting and embroidery and she had been a potter. He was active in the local historical society.”

Another close friend, Shirley Oldman, last night described Mr and Mrs McDonald as a “wonderful couple”.

She added: “You always thought of them as Henny and Michael, although they both had their own interests. I will miss them very much, as will many, many people.”

Mrs Oldman said Mrs McDonald was a “friend for life”, and her husband was a “true gentleman”.

Mrs McDonald used to be a very good golfer and played at Southwold and Aldeburgh golf clubs.

To pay tribute, Southwold ladies are to hold a minute's silence in her memory at next week's Christmas competition and lunch.

The couple had a son, Gerald, and a daughter, Madeleine.

n Suffolk police last night issued an appeal for anyone who either spoke to, or saw, an elderly couple in the vicinity of the station at around 5.50pm, shortly after a train from Ipswich had called.

Anyone with information should call Pc Gary Hutchings at Halesworth Roads Policing Unit on 01986 835350.

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