Tributes as Normandy veteran John Lister dies aged 101
- Credit: Marcia Hughes
Tributes have been paid to a war veteran who moved a nation when he shared his story of loneliness.
John Lister, who has died aged 101, was a resident at Thorp House nursing home in Griston, near Watton.
The Normandy veteran first made headlines when he told how he was struggling to face his first Christmas without his wife Ella, who died of Covid aged 92 during the first wave of the pandemic – just weeks after their 70th wedding anniversary.
The power of his words saw his story being shared around the world and an online appeal to send him Christmas cards prompted an overwhelming response.
More than 18,000 letters and cards and hundreds of gifts arrived at the home from all over the world from afar afield as Australia, the Philippines and the USA. They included a personal letter from Sir Richard Branson, a card from Captain Sir Tom Moore, and a shirt from Norwich City Football Club with the number 101 printed on it.
The outpouring of kindness gave a much-needed boost both to Mr Lister and also to dozens of struggling families after many of the gifts, such as chocolates and biscuits, were donated to people in Watton and the surrounding area.
At the time Mr Lister said: "I feel so appreciative to everyone who has written to me. I still miss Ella but I know I am not alone with my family and all these people supporting me."
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Thorp House wellbeing coordinator Marcia Hughes said everyone at the home was “heartbroken” following his death. She described him as an “incredibly happy” individual who “lived his life to the full”.
Mr Lister served as a gunner in the Second World War and fought with the 72nd Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery. He remembered being called up from his father’s Norfolk farm to fight, hours after the D-Day landings.
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He was with his childhood sweetheart and companion for more than 70 years, after they married in Deopham, 1949.
His nephew, also called John Lister, said: "We're extremely grateful for the love and care given to John and Ella by all the staff at Thorp House. "We would also like to thank the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and all those wonderful people who sent letters, cards and gifts to John."
Stephen Pullinger, of Kingsley Healthcare Group, added: "Everyone connected to Thorp House is extremely sad as he was someone admired, respected and liked by all who met him."