It has been a year since Covid-19 reached the North East, but today the devastating death toll is still rising.
Every life lost to the virus is a reminder of the true human cost of the pandemic which has transformed our lives.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there was a total of 4,968 deaths in the North East where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, between the start of the outbreak and January 1.
But behind the horrifying numbers are the names and faces of lost loved ones, each of them sorely missed by those close to them.
Today ChronicleLive is paying tribute to some of the North East’s tragic coronavirus victims.
Paul Hilditch, 55
He was a fit and healthy man with no underlying health conditions and loved walking and the outdoors.
His untimely death devastated the local community and his three children Emily, 28, Adam, 26 and Camille, 24.
Emily said: “Dad was an extremely fit guy, this is something we never expected could happen to him. We are all still in shock.”
The former Wellfield Community School and Sunnydale School teacher inspired a huge number of people with his passion for life and learning.
His children said technology was a subject which he always found fascinating, and he took great pride in passing his extensive knowledge on to the next generation.
They added that Paul made a “colossal impact” on their lives and his love for life and positive outlook will always inspire them.
Alison Brown, 39
Alison Brown, who was born and raised in Elswick, Newcastle, lost her battle with Covid-19 within five days of testing positive for the virus on January 9.
After spending a month in hospital with a stomach infection, Alison caught Covid-19 after she was discharged.
Her loved ones with unimaginable heartache of saying goodbye to the woman who “spread nothing but joy and love”.
Her partner of 12 years, Allan Baines, told ChronicleLive that she was the “most caring and compassionate soul” he had ever met.
He added: “She gave me the 12 most amazing years of my life, of which I deservedly dedicated every moment to her.
“She touched the heart of everyone that met her and always spread nothing but joy and love.”
Alison attended Stocksfield Avenue Primary School before moving up to Kenton School. She then left Newcastle in 2000 to study photography at the University of Surrey’s Institute of Art and Design.
Never losing her Geordie twang, she eventually settled in London, joining London’s Cartoon Museum in 2006 where she worked until her passing.
Elaine Saddler, 44
Struggling to breathe, Elaine had called for an ambulance on December 9. Paramedics diagnosed her with the virus, but with her condition not then serious enough for hospital admission, they advised her to self-isolate at home.
On December 13, Elaine texted her brother, Adam Saddler, to wish him a happy birthday. In what was, tragically, to be one of her last ever messages, she briefly mentioned she’d been feeling unwell – but Adam had no idea how bad things were.
On December 18, she was found dead at her home, after her ex-partner became worried that supplies he’d left for her earlier that week had not been taken inside, calling Northumbria Police when she didn’t answer her door.
Grief-stricken Adam said: “It’s been horrendous. She was never one to complain, and until the police told me she’d been diagnosed with coronavirus I didn’t even know she had been so ill.
“I’ve now heard that she was really struggling to breathe, and that she could barely walk three paces, it was that bad.”
Sylvia Richardson, 81
The 81-year-old Blakelaw grandma, who suffered from dementia, had lived in the home for two years after caring for her full-time became too much for her devoted husband Jimmy.
Paying tribute to his mum, son Gary said: “She was just a character. She was always dead happy, always smiling, she was never any bother. The staff all loved her.
“My dad’s devastated, they were together for 65 years and he used to visit her every day.”
Brenda Kristensen-Herdman, 74
Brenda tested positive for coronavirus after she was admitted to Bishop Auckland General Hospital with a broken hip.
She had her bags packed to return home, but tragically lost her two-day battle with the virus on April 25, aged 74.
Her friend Keith Lynch, 44, has paid tribute to her.
Brenda and Keith met 10 years ago when Keith started as bar manager at the Victory Club, in Burnopfield, where Brenda had worked for over 20 years, first as a chairperson and then as secretary.
She was very much involved at the club and helped to host regular entertainment nights, with her ability to work an audience.
Keith said: “Brenda was the life of the Victory Club and I would always say if you cut her in half she’d be like Blackpool Rock – she’d have Burnopfield Victory Club written on there.”
Brenda also handmade all the curtains at the club, as well as backdrops for the stage for a number of events, a skill she had picked up whilst working as a self-employed seamstress in Newcastle.
Her seamstress talents were also used during the making of the 1971 film, Get Carter, as she created the Pelaw Hussars jazz band uniforms that appeared in the film.
Keith added: “Brenda was like part of the furniture at the club and I know her memory will live on in there thanks to everyone who loved her.”
Dr Nair, who worked at the Station View Medical Centre in Bishop Auckland, has been described as an “outstanding” doctor and “valued member of the community”.
Her family shared the heartbreaking news that she died at the University Hospital of North Tees Hospital after long battling with coronavirus.
Politicians, former colleagues and community groups have been among those to pay tribute to the much-loved medic.
Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison said she was saddened to hear of the “heartbreaking loss”.
On Facebook she wrote: “Dr Nair was a well-known and extremely valued member of our community, serving as a doctor at Station View Medical Centre.
“She will be heavily missed by all that knew her, and my thoughts and prayers go out to her friends, family, and colleagues at this sad time.”
Allen Linsley, 53
Dad-of-six Allen lost contracted coronavirus after heart surgery.
The taxi driver, from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, was recovering in rehab when he took unwell and was rushed to intensive care.
His children said their final goodbyes to their loving dad via video call as they were not allowed to visit.
Family friend Lisa O’Neil-Gammage, 39, said: “He went into hospital last year for surgery on a torn aorta and was put on life support then.
“He had quite a hard time but recovered and was transferred to Bishop Auckland General Hospital for rehab.
“He contracted coronavirus and was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital and was in the intensive care unit.
“They now have tablets so family can FaceTime relatives. His family spoke to him before the ventilator was switched off.”
She added: “It is such heart breaking times after he had fought so gallantly and come so far.”
Allen was a well-known taxi driver in the Newton Aycliffe area, and was popular with passengers. Lisa added: “Everyone who met him smiled. He was the absolute life and soul of the party.
“He would talk the hind legs off a donkey, was scooter, camper and kids mad with the biggest and most caring heart. No one had a bad word to say about him.”
John Pollock, 72
Grandad-of-seven John was described as the “fittest 72-year-old” by Lambton Street Boxing Club, in Sunderland, where he helped train and coach boxers.
He passed away at Sunderland Royal Hospital on April 25, after being admitted for a bacterial infection.
Although he tested negative for the coronavirus on admission to hospital, he later succumbed to the virus.
Lambton Street Boxing Club has paid tribute to John on Facebook.
A post said: “John was initially admitted to hospital with a bacterial infection in his blood and after biting down on his gumshield in true fighting spirit, fighting back and gaining strength he contracted Covid-19 which ultimately John was unable to overcome.
“John was the fittest 72-year-old we’ve ever seen, often training our Sunday session of runs, explosive sprints, cardio weights and metabolic circuits, he often competed with some of the boxers he was so fit.
“He was a humble man, a good man and a man who would go out of his way to help anyone, he was one of life’s ‘good ones’ who will be sorely missed by everyone at Lambton Street.”
John was a former highways inspector for Sunderland City Council who became involved with the boxing club after his grandson Niall Bowler joined.
John’s passion and commitment to the club grew from there and he would be at the club sometimes six days a week helping young people.
Harry Mercer, 97
He was named Britain’s most amazing pensioner after volunteering for more than 70 years.
But now ex-bomber pilot has lost his last battle with coronavirus at the age of 97.
The North Shields stalwart, who served as a rear gunner flying Halifax Bombers in the RAF during the World War II, dedicated his life to helping others.
And only last year he decided to retire from his role meeting and greeting patients and visitors at North Tyneside General Hospital.
His grandson Tim Hoddy said: “He certainly was a man about North Shields. He spent his life helping others and he will be greatly missed.
“He was active up until Christmas but in March he had difficulty breathing and had a spell in hospital. He was just getting old and I think his body was just getting ready to go.
“He came out and went into Croftdene Care Home in Wallsend and the staff there were brilliant.
“It was just one of those things that he got Covid-19 and died in the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington.”
Harry had volunteered at North Tyneside Hospital for 35 years but his volunteering actually goes back to 1947 when he and his late wife Betty raised funds to build a headquarters for the Tynemouth Sea Scouts at the Haven, which is still in use today.
He remained involved with the scouts for many years and, in the late 1950s, started raising money for the NHS.
Harry was chairman of North Tyneside League of Friends for 30 years, through which thousands of pounds were donated to support healthcare services in North Tyneside.
He was also a member of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade for 15 years – all while running his own business, an electrical repair shop in North Shields.
Harry died on Thursday, April 30, and leaves daughter Joan Pearson, grandchildren Nicola Marsh and Richard and Tim Hoddy, and great-grandchildren Isabel and Charlotte Marsh, along with Imogen, Olivia, Tabitha and Hugo Hoddy.
Sue Gargett, 53
Described as the ‘mother figure’ to colleagues who helped those who needed it most, Sue, from Shotton Colliery in County Durham, lost her life to coronavirus at the age of just 53.
She died at the University Hospital of North Durham after being taken ill with the virus at Easter.
Sue worked as a specialist in the Employment Futures team, preparing those living with autism for work, and helping to unlock suitable job opportunities.
Derek Groves, employment services manager for NEAS, said: “Sue was an invaluable team player, who was always ready to jump to the support of her colleagues whenever it was needed.”
Sue’s role involved raising the aspirations of autistic people by helping them to realise their potential and identify their transferable skills, before finding routes into employment.
“She was successful in helping some service-users get their first paid jobs and she loved being able to do that,” said Mr Groves. “She was so emotionally involved in her role – she’d be ecstatic if ever someone got a job.”
Before joining NEAS, Sue had spent around ten years at East Durham College, working with people with special educational needs.
John Phillipson, chief executive of NEAS, added: “Employment Futures is carrying out some fantastic work, making a massive difference to people’s lives, and Sue was a very important part of that success.
“She was a lovely person and my last conversation with her was about how she wanted to run a social group for adults in her own time in the evenings. It was that kind of support and initiative that summed up her special qualities.”
Anita Coulson, 56
Kind and caring Anita passed away at Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital after 24 days in critical care fighting the virus.
The foster carer, from Winlaton in Gateshead, had battled kidney failure and a collapsed lung, even fighting her way back from being given a five per cent chance of survival.
But as her family started to hope she might make it home, Anita developed pneumonia which affected her one good lung, and died on April 21 with her husband and two children by her side.
Previously fit and healthy with no underlying health conditions, Anita was due to become a grandma for the fourth time.
She had been a foster carer for 14 years, and was still caring for two children when she fell ill.
Before that, Anita worked in home help for Gateshead Council for 20 years, devoting her entire life to caring for others.
Her daughter, Rebecca Martin, has described her as “the heart of the family”.
The 33-year-old said: “She had a big heart, she always helped everybody.
“She was a foster carer for such a long time, and she always wanted to help give kids the best start in life. She still had two foster children at the time who call her mam, they respected her that much.
“She was the heart of the family, she held everybody together.”
Anita also leaves behind husband, Andy, son Trevor and grandchildren, Ellie May, Joshua and Alfie.
Doreen Thompson, 88
She was the glue that kept a family together after pulling through illness, tragedy and what life threw at her.
But Doreen lost her life to coronavirus in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, at the age of 88.
Her grandson, Chris Thompson, 33, of Bensham, Gateshead, said: “Her passing away of Covid-19 on April 28 not only took away a nan, a mother, a sister and a friend to so many, it also took away a lady who despite everything remained the sweetest, kindest, toughest, honest and most genuine person I could have ever had the privilege of knowing.”
Doreen, who was from West Denton in Newcastle but had moved to Wheatfield Court Care Home in Westerhope, was born Emma Coxon before getting married to Billy Thompson in 1950.
Care worker Chris added: “They went on to have four children, starting with Lynn, then Lee, Garry and Dean. Sadly, when Lynn was barely two years old she passed away but, ever formidable and strong, my nan continued to raise her three boys. All the while she worked in a variety of different jobs, sometimes two or more at a time.”
From being a child Doreen had to develop a fighting spirit after getting tuberculosis and having to battle to get healthy again.
The dedicated grandmother was a hard worker and would hold down more than one job at a time to provide for her family.
In her latter years, Doreen dedicated her time to looking after elderly aunties Martha, Meggie and Sadie before they passed away and she eventually moved into a care home herself.
Ian Ridley, 55
Ian, who was a taxi driver in the County Durham area, died on April 15.
Clair Hampton, manager of Chevron Taxis, said: “He worked for Chevron for about 15 years and left to go and deliver cars.
“He then came back to the taxi world. He was a massive, massive part of the Chevron family.
“He had a big heart. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was never miserable and no one had a bad word to say about him.
“He was just an awesome man.”
Ian was a loving husband to Margaret, who he married two years ago, and dad to David and Katie.
Clair added: “When he married Margaret, he said she had made him complete. He had been a single dad for years and years.”
Norma Orchard, 79
Born and bred in Easington Village, Norma Orchard was a well-known face in the community and was often seen at social events with her husband Brian.
Family was at the centre of Norma’s life, having raised four children and helping to care for 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Norma passed away in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.
Norma and Brian, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in March, were regulars in the South Side Social Club.
Their daughter, Sharon Orchard, 59, said: “Everyone knew my mum and dad and they sat in the same seats every week and they were like extended family. She was a wonderful, wonderful person.
“She was the linchpin of the family. She would take the grandchildren to nursery all the time and loved it, she would get involved herself and all the mums loved her.”
Keith Dunnington, 54
“Selfless, hardworking and dedicated” is how nurse Keith has been described.
The dad-of-two, from South Shields, worked as a staff nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.
Colleagues have paid tribute to Keith.
Yvonne Ormston MBE, chief executive of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of Keith Dunnington.
“Keith was a long-serving Staff Nurse who worked on medical, surgical and elderly wards here at Gateshead Health NHS FT.
“Keith was a popular and hard-working member of our fantastic nursing team. He will be very missed by his co-workers here at the trust and by the patients he cared for.”
Joan Tait, 81
During her distinguished police career, Joan worked undercover at the time of the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry as well as investigating, fraud, drugs offences and murder.
She died at the coronavirus-hit Stanley Park Care Home on April 16.
During her career as a police officer Joan, from Craghead, near Stanley, had spells in uniform and as a detective in vice, special crime, fraud, and drugs squads, as well as working on murder investigations.
She was one of the country’s first female police inspectors.
Joan’s sister, Barbara Taylor, said: “She often joked that she was one of the original girl powers, and the family were incredibly proud of her for all that she achieved in her police days given it was a very male-dominated environment then with a lot of prejudices.”
Margaret ‘Margie’ Blyth, 66
Margie has been described as a “local hero” for her devotion to her work with the North East Autism Society.
The 66-year-old, from Sunderland, worked for the charity for 18 years.
She died at Sunderland Royal Hospital where she was being treated for coronavirus.
John Phillipson, chief executive if the North East Autism Society, broke the news of Margie’s death to colleagues in an emotional email.
He said: “When someone dies, there is often a rush of people who want to say how special they were. Sometimes the comments exaggerate just how special the person was. In Margie’s case, the compliments will be entirely deserved.
“Margie was a great favourite of people who worked closely with her. She was reliable, hard-working and dedicated. She would do anything for anyone. She had a great sense of humour and we will all miss the warmth of her personality.”
Fiona Anderson, 48
Sunderland community nurse Fiona “devoted her life to helping others”, her loved ones have said.
She died on Sunday, April 26, after testing positive for Covid-19.
Fiona joined South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in 2007, working as a staff nurse at Sunderland Royal Hospital and South Tyneside District Hospital before joining the community as a staff nurse in 2019.
She worked at Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre, where colleagues described her as a “passionate and highly committed nurse who cared for thousands of patients in both Sunderland and South Tyneside”.
Fiona’s sister, Sarah Anderson, said: “We are incredibly proud of Fiona. She died doing what she loved, working for the NHS and caring for those in need. Always in our hearts and never forgotten.”
Kenneth Sumner, 96
Kenneth was a hero of the Second World War and member of the famous Dambusters squadron.
Known as ‘Ken’, he lived in Newcastle and joined the RAF at the age of 18.
He went on to achieve a Distinguished Flying Medal for his bravery while serving in ‘44 “Rhodesia” Squadron, flying a total of 27 operations in Lancaster Bombers, battling to complete one key mission despite sustaining a serious injury.
Ken died at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary on April 2 after a short battle with Covid-19.
His grandson Kenneth Shepherd said he and his family “could not have wished for a bigger hero to look up to” than his “flawless” grandad.
He said: “He was a true gentleman who never stopped loving his family, his wife of over 60 years Rennie and of course, his cat Patchy.
“As they say, they don’t make them like them anymore: there was never a truer saying.”
Ken married Phyllis “Rennie” Reynolds in 1946. She died in 2015. They had three children, Warren, Lorelle and Graham.
Ted Greathead, 87
Former miner Ted was at the heart of his community.
He died at the University Hospital of North Durham after fighting coronavirus for 12 days.
His daughter Angela Grundy, 48, who is a service support manager at the hospital, described him as ‘hero’ and a pillar of the community.
She said: “He was my hero, he was a massive role model to myself and the whole family. He was just full of life and he was a huge character.
“He was a massive family man, he told us every day that he loved us.
“He idolised his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was the best role model anybody could wish for.”
Ted leaves behind four children; Angela, Kevin, Karen and Stephen, seven grandchildren and special friend Sylvia.
He lived in the County Durham village of Perkinsville for more than 40 years and was a much-loved member of the community.
He was treasurer at The Ranch, Ouston’s Social Club, for more than 30 years and helped run various different events.
The lively grandad had been fit and well until around six months ago.
After continuous chest infections, Ted diagnosed with pneumoconiosis – a disease of the lungs due to inhalation of dust, often associated with mining.
Ted was moved into a care home for two weeks of respite, but on April 5 began feeling feverish.
The following day, his symptoms got worse and he was taken to hospital where he tested positive for coronavirus.
He died on April 17.
Joyce Gangel, 70
Caring Joyce collapsed after falling ill at her home in Fenham, Newcastle, and was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary where she tested positive for Covid-19.
She had to be put on a ventilator and her family say she courageously fought against the virus for 17 days, before passing away. She was 70.
Her daughter Lisa Taylor, 47, said: “Our beautiful, strong, courageous mam fought so hard but could not fight any more. She is now at peace.”
Joyce was popular and well-liked in her community. She loved animals and was a keen supporter of the Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter as well as the Westgate Ark Cat Homing Centre.
Some years ago, Joyce had a brush with TV fame, appearing on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents on BBC Three. She appeared on the show alongside her son-in-law John Taylor and watched what her grandson Johnny got up to on holiday in Thailand.
Lisa said: “Mam was so popular and so many people knew her in the community. She had so many friends.
“She was fantastic on the TV show – a real character. People were saying at the time that she should get her own show because she was so witty.”
Phil Graham, 59
As a driving instructor working in and around Sunderland, popular Phil, from East Herrington, helped hundreds of young motorists get behind the wheel.
Fellow driving instructor, Peter Scott, has paid tribute to him.
He said: “He has been a driving instructor for about 10 years and was a very, very nice man.
“He had just celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Susan, and they have three children.
“He was a lovely bloke and very well respected.”
Thomas Jardine, 75
Described by his family as a ‘true gentleman’ Thomas, from Benwell, died on his 75th birthday.
His granddaughter Demi Jardine, 24, said: “Words won’t ever explain how devastated I am. Not only because he is gone and that I will never see him again, but because I never got to say goodbye, hold his hand, kiss him one last time and tell him I love him.
“He was very funny and charismatic. It wasn’t his time to go and if it wasn’t for the virus, he’d still be here today.
“That’s what makes it so much harder for us all to understand and comprehend.”
Thomas, who had underlying health conditions including COPD and asthma, was initially admitted to hospital suffering from a chest and water infection. He twice tested negative for Covid-19 and was discharged.
However, a week later his condition began to deteriorate, suffering with a cough, high temperature and struggling to breathe.
He was taken back to hospital where it was discovered he had pneumonia. Another coronavirus test was carried out, which came back positive.
Thomas suffered kidney failure and doctors told his family there was nothing more they could do.
Thomas leaves behind wife of 42 years Ona, son Stephen, grandchildren Demi, Stephen, Jack and Amie and great-granddaughter Amber.
Maureen Brown, 71
Devoted grandmother of seven Maureen, from Longbenton, battled Covid-19 at Wansbeck General Hospital for 10 days before sucumbing to the cruel disease. She was 71.
Her daughter Kerrie Oman paid tribute to her ‘incredibly caring’ mum.
The 46-year-old said: “People have been contacting me to say how amazing and incredibly caring my mam was.
“She was one of those people who was always thinking about what she could do for other people.
“As a child, I remember her carrying a pan full of soup down the street to the neighbours because they were in financial difficulty after losing their job.”
Maureen, who suffered from COPD, was admitted to hospital with fluid retention relating to the condition, which causes poor airflow and breathing problems.
And after responding well to treatment, her family were making plans for her to return to her home in Palmersville, where she moved in 2006.
But she later developed a temperature and tested positive for Covid-19.
Rebecca Mack, 29
Rebecca, from Morpeth, worked as a children’s cancer nurse at the Royal Victoria Infirmary before taking a job at NHS 111.
She had been self-isolating at home after starting to experience coronavirus symptoms when she died.
It is thought Rebecca called an ambulance herself when she became unwell, but by the time paramedics arrived she had already passed away.
Rebecca’s mum Marion, 59, said: “She was an absolutely wonderful daughter. We couldn’t have wished for a nicer daughter. She was so caring.
“She was just the light of our lives. I can’t even begin to imagine life without her.”
Angus Webb, 45
Businessman Angus was the founder and managing director of Hexham online research company Panelbase.
He died in hospital in Spain, where he had been living.
Angus grew up in Cullercoats and, as a teenager, was an accomplished swimmer with Tynemouth Swimming Club.
After graduating from Northumbria University in 2002, he joined Northumberland’s Dipsticks Research as an ICT and marketing executive, with a remit to help create the technical infrastructure for the business.
After 18 months, he was invited to join the board of directors, and set up Dipstick’s online consumer research panel company Panelbase.
Dipsticks co-founder John Raglan said: “We are all devastated and no words can even go partway to describe what an amazing ‘gentle giant’ he was. Angus was a true leader in every sense of the word. We will all miss him and life will certainly not be the same with his passing.”
John Borthwick, 78
John, a former scaffolder who fearlessly worked on top of the Tyne Bridge in the 1970s, died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, where he tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Borthwick, from Low Fell, was part of a team who worked on the arch of the Tyne Bridge when the historic structure needed maintenance and a fresh lick of paint. John later went on to work on oil rigs.
A family member said his death was particularly heartbreaking for his wife Norah, who was asked to isolate for 12 weeks due to health issues and was unable to visit her husband of nearly 46 years in his care home or hospital.
The family member said: “He travelled a lot through his work and went to places like Holland and Germany doing different jobs. He talked about working on top of the Tyne Bridge a lot. At that time they went up there without any harnesses or ropes. They just climbed up. Working on the Tyne Bridge was something he was very proud of.”
“He was so popular and was adored by hundreds of people.”
John Shallcross, 74
Businessman John founded Patterson Ryan wireworkers in Wallsend 19 years ago, and despite handing the day-to-day running over to son Benjamin he was still actively involved as chairman.
The much-loved family man died at Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington, leaving wife Michelle, four children, 11 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
John was also well-known for his charity and volunteer work across the North East.
He received an OBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours in recognition of his work supporting youth clubs and young people’s voluntary services.
He helped raise more than £1m for NE Youth, which supports young people and youth organisations in the communities where they live and work, and had only retired from the organisation in February this year.
His daughter, Jo, said: “Dad was amazing. He was the biggest role model I could have had. I do quite a bit of charity work myself, and it comes from him. He was just so generous. He always had time for people. He was the life and soul of the party.”
“He was a real family man too. Last summer he paid for us all to go on a boating holiday on the Thames. It was a fantastic experience. At a time like this when we would usually have come together and can’t, it’s a lovely and lasting memory to have.”
Peter Harker, 70
Peter was at the heart of Newcastle’s retail sector, owning businesses such as Plus Four, The Uncollected Dry Cleaning Company and Quickstitch.
Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease seven years ago, Peter remained active and continued to work in his shops on a daily basis.
But while in lockdown with the rest of the country, Peter’s health deteriorated and he passed away at his Jesmond home. The 70-year-old was posthumously tested for coronavirus.
His nephew Chris Harker said: “Peter was a legend. Everyone knew him and loved him.
“We have had a lot of tributes on Facebook, which says a lot about him and it has brought us a lot of comfort reading them.
“The family has had shops in Newcastle for years. Retail was in his blood.”
Peter also leaves behind wife Christine, children Philip and Penny and siblings John and Lorelle.
Brian Paddison, 56
Successful businessman and devoted Newcastle United fan Brian passed away in the Royal Victoria Infirmary after becoming ill at home.
A family member said: “Brian had been confined to home after becoming unwell with a temperature and collapsed four days later. He was taken to hospital alone and placed in a coma for 72 hours. His family were unable to be by his side.”
Brian set up Wallsend-based Premier Transport in 1997 with just one rusty vehicle he bought for £1,000 with money borrowed from his father.
But the company grew to boast one of the largest fleets of luxury cars and coaches in the area.
Toon fan Brian also backed a succession of football events across the area on behalf of charities.
He was an influential figure behind the 50th anniversary celebrations launched last year by the Fairs Club, brought legendary manager Kevin Keegan back to Tyneside for a dinner in the city that raised £8,000 for special needs school Beacon Hill in Wallsend, and regularly backed fundraising shows on behalf of Walker Central Boys Club.
Joe Jenkins, 65
Dad-of-six Joe, from Sunderland’s Ford Estate, has been described by his family as a “true gent”.
He was rushed into hospital on March 30 after showing symptoms of Covid-19 and died just two days later. He had developed a cough while on holiday in Spain for his 40th wedding anniversary with wife Eva and his condition worsened when he returned home.
Joe’s sister Marion Jolliff, 62, spent two weeks in a coma after she was struck down with the virus in early March.
The grandmother is now recovering at home with her husband Alen, 65, and her family waited until she had been discharged from hospital before delivering the devastating news about Joe.
Her son, Alen junior, 43, said: “It was my dad who told her. She is devastated. My dad had been so chewed about it. He just wanted her home, we all did, but he was so concerned about telling her, especially when she had been so poorly.”
Margaret Beck, 70
Margaret was a “much-loved” community stalwart and former councillor for the Fulwell area of Sunderland.
She leaves behind her husband of 49 years Richard, 73, daughter Theresa, 51, and grandson Ryan, 24.
Wearing masks and protective clothing, the family were able to say goodbye in hospital.
Richard said: “We had to say our final goodbyes and I said to her ‘I will always love you’.
“We are all absolutely devastated. This is such a terrible thing. Although Margaret did have heart troubles, she had no underlying health conditions.
“It came out of the blue and her condition got worse and worse.
“Margaret was so loved and well-liked in the community and many people have already been in touch to say that she was loved and that she will be missed.”
Margaret was elected in May 2015 to represent Fulwell and was well-known in the local area for regularly visiting Neighbourhood Watch meetings.
Seaburn Dene Primary School, where Margaret had been a long-standing governor, also paid tribute.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller, added: “News of Margaret’s death will be a shock to many, many people across our city.
“She was an absolute stalwart of the community across Fulwell and worked very hard to protect and promote the interests of all residents.
“Professionally and personally, her honesty and hard work were always respected by everybody she met and worked with. Our thoughts are with her family and many friends.”
Norman Hunter, 76
Gateshead-born footballer Norman played for England and Leeds United during a successful career. The defender, from Eighton Banks, made 28 appearances for the Three Lions and was part of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad.
In a statement, Leeds United paid tribute:
The club said: “Leeds United are devastated to learn of the passing of club legend Norman Hunter at the age of 76.
“Norman was taken to hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19 and despite continuing to battle and the best efforts of NHS staff, he sadly lost his fight.
“He leaves a huge hole in the Leeds United family, his legacy will never be forgotten and our thoughts are with Norman’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”
Barbara Wells, 96
Doting grandma Barbara Wells, 96, died at Stanley Park Care Home, in County Durham, after contracting Covid-19.
More than a dozen residents have died at the care home and staff there are “deeply saddened” by the deaths.
Paying tribute to Barbara, her granddaughter defended the home and praised the staff.
“The community spirit in the home is unbelievable and it was always a pleasure to go in,” said Elys Poppy, 47.
“Myself and my mother always supported it 100% and the staff there really do love the residents, it is a five-star home.
“Grandma’s room was always absolutely beautiful, and this is heartbreaking for (the staff) – they will be an emotional wreck as it will feel like losing part of their family.”
Elys is now planning to launch a charity in her “amazing” grandmother’s memory, aimed at giving back to the staff she believes are “putting their lives on the line each day” to care for people.
“Grandma absolutely loved everyone there, and everyone there loved grandma,” she added.
“They all deserve a helping hand, as there have been so many horrible things which have happened there and it would be nice to give something back to the staff who truly deserve some encouragement.”
Steven Pearson, 51
He spent his life helping others and now mental health nurse Steven Pearson has become a victim of Covid-19.
Steven felt unwell and developed a cough and temperature and died in his sleep just days later.
And now his devastated family are warning others to stay indoors in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Steven, 51, who has daughters Rebecca, 26, and Bethany, 20, was a mental health staff nurse working on the front line for Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust in the North of Tyne street triage team.
He had felt tired for a few days before developing the coronavirus symptoms.
“He had felt washed out on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and went to work on the Friday but he sent me a message saying he wasn’t feeling good,” said his wife Anne, 50, of Cramlington, Northumberland.
“That day he developed a cough and temperature and he didn’t go into work on the Saturday. He had no breathing problems. But he was tested and on the Sunday he was told he had tested positive.
“When he got the result he said he wasn’t surprised and said ‘it is what it is’. He never got upset and he self-isolated upstairs. I stayed downstairs and slept on the sofa.
“On the Monday morning I went to the bedroom to see if he wanted a drink and he had gone, he had passed away. His deterioration was that quick.
“We had been together since we were 16, he was my husband and best friend. We had so much planned together and I feel as though I have been robbed of a husband and our future. Me and the girls were his world.”
Dad-of-two Steven died on April 13. He had been with the Trust for over 30 years, working at St George’s Hospital in Morpeth, as well as at HM Prison Durham and HM Prison Durham, giving people help with their mental health needs.
Micky Barron, 49
Tributes were paid to a loving father-of-two who died of coronavirus just one week after being admitted to hospital.
Micky Barron, 49, of Dipton, County Durham, was known for his “wicked sense of humour” and for winding people up.
He was a regular punter at his local, The Prince of Wales, which was run by his sister-in-law, Carla Murray, and brother, Jay Barron.
Micky, who was dad to Michaela, 23, and Faye, 21, tested positive for coronavirus and after being admitted to hospital passed away on November 20.
Family friend Gill Brotherston said: “He was a lovely man. He was very easy going, had a wicked sense of humour and was always winding people up.
“He loved his girls and was very proud of them. He was just brilliant. Micky was the type of person who would do anything for anyone.”
Tracey Donnelly, 53
A “loving and kind” grandma and autism charity carer died from Covid-19.
Tracey Donnelly, a support worker for the North East Autism Society (NEAS), died in Sunderland Royal Hospital, aged 53.
The mum, who lived in Ryhope, Sunderland, was the third member of staff at the charity to die after testing positive for coronavirus.
A care manager at NEAS said the news had “ripped the heart out of the team,” while Tracey’s devoted husband George described her as “an extra special person in every way”.
Tracey, who was born and raised in Edinburgh, moved from Scotland to the North East after meeting George and they married in October 2012.
“I loved her the first time I saw her, and I always will,” George said.
“She was so loving and kind – just an extra special person in every way.”
Tracey joined NEAS five years ago, working at a range of locations across the North East. For the past two years she worked principally at The Court, Inverthorne and Moorpine residential homes in Sunderland.
Dean Matthews, 42
Photographer Dean Matthews, from Sunderland, died in November aged 42 after testing positive for coronavirus earlier in the month.
The Sunderland AFC fanatic was a regular at the Stadium of Lights and at his funeral, crowds turned out to pay their respects as he made his final journey to the home of the Black Cats.
The photographer was known for taking incredible photos of Sunderland and the North East. and hundreds of people paid tribute to the father-of-five after his death.
His wife Karen shared the tragic news on social media and said she had lost her “best friend, my soul mate and my absolute everything”.
Graham Dinning, 48
A serving Police Community Support Officer died after testing positive for Covid-19.
Graham Wesley Dinning, who was known to his colleagues and friends as Wez, tested positive for the virus on October 14 and had been self-isolating at home.
However, his condition worsened and he passed away on October 28.
Graham, 48, leaves behind wife Laura, who also works for Northumbria Police, and their son Adam
Paying tribute, Laura said: “We are absolutely devastated beyond words.
“Wez was a caring and loving husband and father – and an incredible friend who will be greatly missed by so many.
“He really loved working for Northumbria Police and was proud to be a PCSO.
“I would ask everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him, that they remember him with humour because I know that’s what he would want.”
Kenny Williams, 87
Moving tributes were paid to a respected actor and entertainer who spent his life making people laugh.
Kenny Williams was a comedian and singer, and spent years entertaining people across the North East as he toured the region’s club circuit.
He became a familiar face in households nationwide thanks to his long-running appearances as a newsagent in the famous Tudor Crisps adverts in the 1980s and 90s. On one occasion he was even recognised by superstar Sting.
His family and friends were left heartbroken after the 87-year-old died due to coronavirus.
Kenny, who had vascular dementia, was living at Armstrong House care home in Gateshead.
His family said he tested positive for Covid-19 but initially showed very little symptoms. Three weeks later, he started to experience breathing problems and sadly died.
John, 78, and Elizabeth Ann Smith, 77
A grieving daughter urged people to take coronavirus seriously after losing both her mum and dad to the virus within 29 hours.
Wendi Smith, 51, was left heartbroken after losing her parents John, 78, and Elizabeth Ann Smith, 77, who “couldn’t live without each other” a little over a day apart.
Her mum, who was known as Ann, had been caring for her husband who had a number of health problems including Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when she began to feel unwell.
She developed a sore throat and when her temperature began to rise she was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital on the morning of September 19.
That evening John’s temperature also began to rise and he too was taken to hospital where they were both diagnosed with coronavirus.
After just over a week in hospital, Ann’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she passed away on September 27. But the agony was not yet over for the family who lost John just 29 hours later.
David Orr, 64
A retired mental health nurse and social worker died after contracting coronavirus.
David Orr, of Shiremoor, was admitted to Cramlington Hospital after becoming unwell with Covid-19. However, he lost his battle with the virus on April 15, aged 64.
His daughter paid tribute to her “loving” dad and the NHS staff who cared for him.
Beth Gubbins, 36, described her dad as a “selfless, loving and supportive man with a gentleness and compassion for others.”
He dedicated his life and career to helping others in mental health, sexual health and substance misuse.
And he had a great passion for supporting people who had tested positive for AIDS and HIV, in a time when there was little support and a lot of stigma.
Beth added that her dad would do anything for his family and was a fantastic dad to her and brother Mark, 40, as well as being brilliant with his four grandchildren, aged between nine and 18.
Allan Potts, 81
Talented photographer and grandfather-of-six Allan Potts, 81, was described by loved ones as a tenacious, passionate, kind and caring man who refused to let adversity rob him of his sense of humour.
Allan, from North Tyneside, had battled Parkinson’s disease, a progressive condition which gradually robs sufferers of movement, for 12 years, but continued to keep his family laughing, and find new ways to enjoy the wildlife he had always loved.
Nature-loving Allan was born on Preston Grange Farm, in North Tyneside, and remained devoted to farming throughout his life, working the land at East Farm in Backworth.
A Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, he also travelled the world capturing incredible image of wildlife everywhere from Alaska to the Himalayas, winning dozens of awards for his striking work.
But it was the landscapes and creatures of the North East he most loved to photograph, with his images frequently featured in The Journal, as well as North East exhibition and in his book, Natural North.
Allan’s daughter Helen Potts, 55, said: “He was a very lucky man in many respects, because he absolutely loved his job: in farming he had a vocation, he was a fourth generation farmer, and he felt he was born to be a farmer. Through that came his love of wildlife, which then led him to his love of photography.
“He was also such a family man: we always felt so loved by him. He had a very acute sense of humour, he love making us laugh, and his ability to laugh through adversity was something special.”