Gareth Lewis Born 14th November, 1958 Died aged 52 on 13th December, 2010
On 25th February 2011 a memorial service was held in Cardiff to commemorate the life of Gareth Lewis. Gareth died on 13th December 2010, suddenly and unexpectedly whilst on holiday in Spain. The dreadful shock felt by his family and many friends was compounded by the fact that it came only six months after Haydn, his brother also passed away. What follows is a mixture of people’s memories of Gareth, most of them either read out at the service or written on the memory cards. Some of them express sentiments sent to Gareth’s family in cards.
Extracts from reading at the service:
Gareth was a remarkable man in many ways. To us he was Gareth, Gar, uncle G and Dad to Richard and Louise. We are not nominating him for Sainthood, as he could be irascible, outspoken and plain annoying, especially after a red wine or two...followed by a vodka and orange...BUT these minor flaws were outweighed by his generosity, kindness loyalty, commitment, service to others, appetite for life and joie de vivre.
I want to say a few words about the time we had in Spain before he died. Gareth’s brother, Mark, and his wife, Tracy, have built a beautiful home on the side of a mountain in Spain, surrounded by orange, lemon and fig trees, with breathtaking views of the surrounding campo. Together with their lovely girls, Katie and Ellie, it is a home full of love and Gareth was drawn back time and again, becoming a regular visitor.
Bev and I had a fabulous week with Mark and Tracy last summer, and finding a few days clear before Christmas we went out to stay and on hearing that we were going out Gareth, who was due to stay in Spain for Christmas, announced that we weren’t going without him.
The weekend before he died we partied, barbequed and relaxed as a family in what was supposed to be a breather before the mad rush of Christmas. We went to see a Celtic band on the Saturday night and I will never forget Gareth’s Michale Flatley impression as he bounced round the dance floor to an Irish Jig. Interpretive dance was never Gareth’s strong point and his ramrod pogo-ing was more akin to a Masai warrior!
One of Gareth’s running jokes was ‘My mate, the Pope’. The day before he died, in front of his gathered audience, he gave me a gift-wrapped parcel which contained a flag showing the face of Jesus emblazoned with the words ‘Happy Christmas’ in Spanish. Gareth thought it highly amusing to poke a bit of fun at his brother-in-law’s expense. Well, Gareth, that one backfired spectacularly as little did you know how much it would come to mean to me and how I will treasure it for the rest of my days.
The Monday morning was a beautiful Spanish day and Gareth was up early banging on our door telling us to get up. After doing a couple of laps of the garden chasing Mark’s dogs he planned our day and made arrangements to meet in the local village for coffee.
Sadly we did not make that coffee, as Gareth collapsed in the village and after being assessed at three hospitals he died later that day in Velez, with his beloved sister Bev at his side.
That was a horrendous day for all of us, both the family in Spain and the family and close friends at home, as we struggled to understand how we could go from being so happy in one moment to being so absolutely desolate in the next.
We take comfort from the fact that Gareth did not suffer and was in a place and with people he loved.
Gareth was cremated a week later in a simple family service in Velez Malaga. It was a tribute to him that so many locals turned up, as he had only been visiting for a short time. Typical Gareth; he made an impact.
Ian Tumulty, Gareth’s brother-in-law
From memorial cards & sympathy cards:
My daughter called him ‘Uncle Gareth’ and always used to run to him and give him a hug.
Faruq & family
Both Haydn and Gareth made such an impression on me...they left a lasting impression on so many, particularly of their unrelenting determination to make things better for so many others like them affected by haemophilia.
It’s great that I got to know you...
I remember fondly those days so long ago...another lifetime when our club met in the early days...little did we know what lay ahead. It is an honour to have known you. From those that are left, gone but never forgotten.
Jonny & Ann
I hope you knew how much you meant to me. I think about you every day.
Brightening up all the haemophilia children’s Christmas parties with his sense of fun...
I remember his ‘wheelies’ down the A7 corridors and telling Sister H that she couldn’t hit him ‘cos I’m a haemophiliac’
I will never forget the day of the Cardiff City play-off...we all had Moet and strawberries...
I am glad we met. I learnt a lot...thank you.
I remember when we were sent wine shopping and we had to go to about five different shops until we found
the right wine because no other wine was good enough!
You took me to my first Cardiff City game.
Thank you for giving me a job! And thank you for all the support and advice.
Remembering happy times in Benamargosa!
Will miss our early morning pints. Miss you.
Thank you for opening my eyes.
Daddy G – I love you.
Long remembered from William Diamond ward CR1 and A7 UHW as a good friend and confidante
Gareth Lewis – Annoying, stubborn, generous and lovably non-PC!
Gareth; a great fighter and a real hero. Memories over so many years. He was a real friend. Always spoke his mind but a true friend to all of us.
Gareth; my first love. I remember passing you in the corridors of Llanrumney High School and thinking; ‘Wow! He’s the one for me!’ Best friends. Love you forever.
Everybody around you laughing at you and with you...
A drink or two, a good laugh; you’ll be remembered for your fun.
Caramel vodka...need I say any more!
He came to visit us at home when our daughter was born. We will miss him lots.
Coffee in my garden. Drinks and much arguing in Bev’s garden. Happy days!
Gareth was always the one to force me onto the big rides every haemophilia trip! My final memory of him is him being so proud of my artistic bow-making skills at the BBQ.
I first spoke to Gareth after my husband died. He didn’t know me but he offered to come to visit me even though it was miles away and he was just getting over PCP! The last time I saw him was in October 2010 at the House of Commons. I sat behind him in the debate. He said he went all shivery when they talked about Haydn. He was so proud of him. I will miss him.
Enduring memory of sitting outside a pub in London last year, enjoying the view – they were old enough to be your granddaughters! Ha ha!
Despite everything he was always so full of life. I can recall when Cardiff were due to play Pompey (we won!). He will be missed.
I shall miss our in-depth chats over a couple of bottles of wine.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for the jokes and for looking after Nick. You are a star.
Gareth, I will always remember your humour and your determination. You were great to work with, and also hugely annoying! We will miss you.
On behalf of our family, tahnk you for all that you have done for the haemophiliacs.
Kate & David
Gareth gave me and others the strength to pick ourselves up and live life.
Whenever Gareth saw me he would always be frowning, but his heart was most definitely smiling. I’d tell him to stop bloody frowning and we’d laugh. He was an understanding, genuine man.
I have no-one left to argue with
Thanks for choosing me as your social worker – despite declaring; ‘Oh no! Not you!’ when I arrived for my interview. And I’ve still got my hand painted Xmas card.
What a lot of grief and what a lot of love. I learned the terms ‘Clarkes pies’ and ‘Porky pies’ from Gareth! His energy and commitment pushed Birchgrove forward – ‘no’ was not an option!
Thanks for kidnapping me from cwtch after plying me with wine and making me party with you and Gaynor till stupid o’clock. Great night, uncle G!
Life is all about giving. I know no-one who gave more than you.
...all the work you did for us. Keep it up in Heaven – have loads of mad parties up there.
Thank you Gareth; your tireless work will not be forgotten. We will get there... eventually.
You will never be forgotten Gareth! Thank you for reading my statement during the inquiry. Thank you for all your campaigning. Hopefully justice will be done. We will all miss you.
‘Not you three again!’...referring to me, M and S
Here’s remembering the times in Ipswich and Cardiff. Come on you Blues!
You were an angel in disguise and your wings of support will be much missed. Always your friend,
There are no words.
We miss you off the street, but always you will be remembered for your cheeky smile.
Sue & Neil
Never forget the Ipswich v Cardiff games! And getting absolutely plastered in Cardiff with you at 17! R.I.P. mate. Blue Army!
Joker, fighter, carer and campaigner! You inspired me more than you know.
Gareth, you were inspirational! This one word says it all.
With fond memories of rattling a collection tin and having a pint.
He and Paul were the instigators of the Birchgrove group, and so very special. I remember Gareth as a rather rebellious teenager...he grew into such a caring man, working hard for others within Birchgrove; showing others how one could enjoy life, despite having haemophilia.
When I heard the news I bought flowers and drove 70+ miles to Swindon to take them to the Birchgrove woodland to place them on his stone. As it happened it got dark whilst I was searching for the memorial stone and I had to leave the flowers by one of the birches. The silver pillars of the birches were glowing at night.
I have many memories of both Haydn and Gareth from when he was 14! As an inpatient, confined to a wheelchair, he became quite adept at doing ‘wheelies’ down the corridors!
Extracts from reading at the service:
We all had our own, unique, relationship with him, and I am going to share with you a few memories of mine.
I should perhaps add that I have tried very hard to make the following memories sensitive, reverent and polite, but this is, at the end of the day about Gareth…and he would have wanted me to say it as it was.
I first actually met Gareth in 2006. I already knew of him of course, as he and Haydn had been on the fringes of my campaigning world for many years before that. Their names would crop up from time to time and it was inevitable that one day we would meet face to face. This finally happened at the first committee meeting of the newly formed group TaintedBlood. For some reason I have forgotten and even though I am aware this sounds ridiculous today, I assumed he was Haydn. He explained, politely that he was in fact Haydn’s brother, and that Haydn wasn’t actually there. I can’t remember what I said in reply, but I’m sure it was equally respectful and correct. That occasion was the last time I ever mistook Gareth for Haydn. It was also, almost certainly, one of the last times Gareth and I were ever quite so well mannered with each other.
Over the next five years we became many things to each other – great mates, confidantes, fellow Farm Town fanatics on Facebook, but rarely, if ever, polite.
We had a great relationship but we always told it was it was and would never say anything about each other that we weren’t prepared to say to the other ones face. That led to some interesting conversations!
One of our standing jokes involved him calling me stupid. (I know it doesn’t sound like a joke, but bear with me!) Something would happen, or I would say something – he didn’t need much of an excuse –and he would remind me how stupid I was in doing, or saying, whatever it was I’d said or done, knowing that the instant retort from me would be: ‘Don’t call me stupid!’ Utterly childish, I know, but it used to make us giggle. He had a whole repertoire of insults as it happened, and we used to secretly delight in seeing the reaction from other people when he hurled one of them at me. For instance, it was nothing, when in a meeting, for Gareth to say to me: ‘Who are you? My secretary?! Call yourself a secretary? You’re bloody useless!’ Afterwards in the pub, we’d giggle over the way everyone had looked at us, horrified, obviously thinking I was the subject of some kind of abuse!
Often, he would pop up on Facebook chat with the greeting: ‘Lard-arse!’ Or, if he was feeling particularly relaxed: ‘Lardy!’ I’d retort with something suitable, we’d trade insults for a couple of minutes and then just switch to normal conversation as if nothing had happened – which, by our standards, it hadn’t.
We had a gloriously honest relationship. I would always tell him if I thought he was being an idiot, and he would happily do the same to me. The upside of this was that he often used to phone me about things that were going on and explain what he wanted to do about it. I’d listen – usually cringing - and then he’d say: ‘That’s not a good idea, is it?’
Gareth didn’t want, or need, any concessions made for his disability. Unfortunately for others at times, he presumed all disabled people were the same:
I remember leaving a meeting in London a few months ago and walking with him at breakneck speed to go for a post-meeting drink. I almost needed oxygen, such was the pace; he, however, was talking and walking at full speed, telling me where he felt the campaign should go next. I glanced behind me at one stage and saw that there was a long trail of haemophiliacs scattered along the pavement for about a quarter of a mile behind us, stuck at traffic lights and negotiating London traffic, all trying desperately to keep up.
The last time I saw Gareth face to face was also in London, and it began with me being slightly lost. I was always getting slightly lost in London, either racing to catch him up or trying to find out where he was in the first place.
This time, we’d arranged to meet somewhere at Euston – don’t ask me to narrow it down because I still can’t remember whether it should have been Euston Square or Euston Station. Anyway, the end result was that he ended up at one and I ended up at the other. I then phoned him for directions and – after apparently walking straight past him once – located him standing calmly on a street corner, shaking his head at me in disbelief.
As I was being frogmarched off in the direction of the hotel, I remember he said to me: You know, for someone so intelligent – and you are intelligent, aren’t you? – you can be SO stupid!’
Call it masochism if you like, but I’ll miss all that. I’ll miss the chats we had most days. I’ll miss ringing him quite deliberately on Saturday afternoons just to have him yell at me: ‘What do you want? Don’t you know it’s Saturday, woman? Football!!!’
I’ll miss the fact that at least half the time when I wanted him he wasn’t there, but if it was important and I actually needed him he was ALWAYS there.
I’ll miss the fact that if there was ever a problem, or a falling out between campaigners (Not of course that that’s a regular occurrence!), I could tell him about it and he would quietly sort it out.
I’ll miss the fact that when, on the odd occasion, someone other than him had a go at me, he’d spring indignantly to my defence – only he was allowed to treat me like that! I remember him ripping into one person along the lines of: ‘…and don’t you ever speak to Sue like that again! Not his exact words, but I expect you get the drift!
I’ll even miss the fact that next time I go to London there’ll be no chance of missing the last train because we’re having just one more drink, or because he has the cloakroom ticket, I want to go and he is nowhere to be seen.
He was one of the most annoying, one of the kindest, one of the toughest, biggest softies of a man I have ever met. He cared about people, not rules and regulations, and he would slice through any amount of unnecessary red tape to do the right thing – and then he would carry on and slice through the necessary red tape too if he thought it was getting in the way.
He cared about things being done the right way and he cared about old fashioned values like truth, honesty and justice. He loved art, good food, gardening, football, his flat and his family. The campaign, our lives, and the world will be a lesser, sadder place without him.
Finally; Gareth had to be the least politically correct person I have ever met in my life.
One day, a few weeks before he died we were chatting on the phone, as we did most days. He asked me if I’d spoken to Mark Ward that day, going on to say that he himself had had a lovely chat with him earlier on.
He then added, in apparent bewilderment and disbelief at his own feelings: ‘I really love Mark, you know…even though he is a puff. It’s funny that, isn’t it…?’
And then he gave that lovely, dirty chuckle I’m sure you all remember so well.