Members Stories

Don was born in 1969, the youngest son of John and Helen. He grew up in Newton Aycliffe. Don was granted a great deal of licence during his early years being the youngest child.

After leaving school he immediately commenced work within an engineering company on Aycliffe Business Park and he was continuously employed there for twenty plus years until the company ceased operations.  After this, Don worked for several employers on Aycliffe Business Park.

In his mid-20’s his mother Helen died of cancer and this had a profound effect on Don.  His happiest moments were when his girlfriend had twin daughters in 1997.  Don was very proud of his twin daughters and he had an excellent relationship with them.

Don met Marianne in 2001 and they were married on the idyllic island of Barbados in 2006 and Marianne said this was one of the happiest days of her life. On their return they had a big celebration with family and friends. Don developed a great relationship with Marianne’s daughters.

Don developed severe abdominal pains in Autumn 2012. Marianne insisted that Don see his doctor to ascertain what was wrong, and within a few weeks Don received the devastating diagnosis of bowel cancer – he was only 43 years of age.  Since the initial diagnosis Don underwent nine operations and two courses of chemotherapy.  Being absolutely brave and courageous Don continued with life, enjoying as much as possible, whilst working around his treatment regime.  Indeed, Don vowed to keep everything as normal as possible – he was incredibly strong willed and strong minded so once he had made up his mind there was no moving him!

A passionate and ardent football fan – Leeds United was Don’s team of choice.  He experienced the highs and the lows during the years alongside his avowed team.  Despite this he was a dedicated supporter and nothing was going to change this.  The twins both play football and Dad was keen to watch their matches.  He enjoyed many sports – keen to watch football, cricket and rugby at every opportunity especially if it meant he could enjoy a few pints whilst watching the sports.
Family was very important to Don – he truly embraced being a family man – taking advantage of meeting up with the family for get togethers and holidays whenever possible.   It was Don’s wish to see the children grow up and doing well for themselves.  He was incredibly proud of each of them.

A plain speaking, plain eating gentleman, Sunday dinner was ranked amongst Don’s favourite meals and he had an absolute love of Toby Carveries!  He was specific about there being plenty of gravy – in fact swimming in gravy was just about right – and no vegetables!  He was in his absolute element in the great outdoors – people watching with a can of Carlsberg to hand – he was delighted.  More recently Don could be found sitting outside tucked up in his ‘snuggle’ – something he was very happy with.

He didn’t appreciate the word ‘grumpy’ being used in relation to himself – he preferred to be known as ‘firm but fair’ with a look that spoke a thousand words.  Don truly did not have to say anything whatsoever – you just knew!

Don and the family enjoyed many holidays over the years. All four daughters enjoyed a number of family holidays. Caravan holidays were also the order of the day – staying at Haven in Scarborough and Berwick was a real favourite destination due to its historical value.

A man with an incredible sense of humour which never, ever waned, he had the family’s lives!  Regular text messages and phone calls to the daughters were daily events. Everyone was ‘sacked’ at some point – apart from the girls that is – they were never sacked!  He had a sarcastic, dry wit and was able to have everyone in stitches.

Don did try to keep life as normal as possible, despite all of the set backs he experienced.  Tuesday nights were spent at the pub which helped him get through the chemotherapy on a Wednesday – the treatment had an adverse effect on him.  Don had returned to work after the initial diagnosis and operations however in 2018 he received a terminal diagnosis – yet he never ever gave up and it was his express wish to remain at home.

Don underwent an operation in 2021 to remove a brain tumour.  Afterwards he was unable to walk.  Everyone involved with his care were absolutely wonderful – Nicola the Macmillan Nurse, the NHS cancer treatment wards, the District Nurse Service, Marie Curie Nurses and Aycliffe Cancer Support Group who organised trips and support.

Throughout the whole his bravery and fortitude was truly inspirational, and his battle against cancer showed the measure of the man that was Don. Don was a cancer survivor for 9.5 years until March 2022 when he passed away in peace at home with all of his family and loved ones with him at the end. As a family we are comforted by the fact that he is now at peace and not in pain any more.