When 95-year-old Stewart Abbot Cooney sadly passed away at our Colton Lodges care home in Leeds, having outlived both his wife and son, House Manager Ruth Fawcett couldn’t bear for his funeral to be a quiet, lonely affair.
Thanks to Ruth and her colleague, Area Trainer Dougie Eastwood, Stewart, who served his country in Egypt and Sicily in World War Two, got the send off he deserved.
“Stewart had been with us at Colton Lodges for seven months, and on the wall in his room was a photograph of him in his army uniform, along with his artillery badge, so it was clear that his years in the military was something he really valued,” Ruth said.
“We knew nothing about any other relatives that may be alive, and I thought we must do something for a man who had given his all so we could live the lives we do today. So that’s when I turned to Dougie, who has also served in the army, to see if we could do something special for Stewart.”
Dougie served in the same regiment as Stewart, and soon contacted the local artillery and put out an appeal on Facebook for people to attend the funeral. Nothing could have prepared Ruth and Dougie for just how fast this story would spread.
The appeal was soon on the front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post, while people-tracing experts FinderMonkey offered their services free of charge and discovered that Stewart in fact had two long-lost sisters that were still alive.
“It all blew up from there!” Dougie said. “I thought it would be great to get a couple of soldiers in uniform to attend, but more than 300 people attended the ceremony, including two of his sisters.
“They only found out about the funeral a couple of days before but they came along and brought Stewart’s nephews, which was brilliant.”
Members of the Royal British Legion Riders Branch, known as the Yorkshire Riders, acted as pallbearers, while Stewart was given a guard of honour as he was escorted from the care home to the crematorium. A local florist also made sure that Stewart’s regimental number – 883220 – was arranged in a floral display by his graveside and this was provided free of charge.
Ruth added: “People were amazed at what had become of our appeal and just how special the day was. It really was the perfect send off for a man who had done so much.
“Stewart often had a glint in his eye and had a cheeky personality. It’s brilliant that we were able to do something special for one of our residents, and that people from all around the country came together for his final goodbye.
“Myself and Dougie both feel very humbled and it’s given us a great sense of pride and loyalty.”
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