Son pays tribute to well-known Fairfield parents – who died weeks apart

A Fairfield expat has paid tribute to his parents - a much-loved couple who died just two months apart - saying “I’m proud to have been able to call them mum and dad”.

By Ben McVay
Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 4:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 11:15 am

Simon Downings mum and dad - James and Linda Downings - spent over 20 years fundraising for their community - raising over £100,000 for the local Multiple Sclerosis Society.

They began supporting the charity as Linda, diagnosed with the condition aged 22, became wheelchair-bound in her late 20s.

Son Simon has told how in January his dad James died seven weeks after mum Linda - of cancer and a “broken heart”.

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James and Linda Downings fundraising at one of many tombola stalls

He had cared for beloved wife Linda for over 30 years until her death on December 6 of cancer, aged 59, - having battled the disease for years while also suffering with MS.

Heartbroken Simon, 39, who now lives in Germany, described how grief-stricken dad James - fighting his own cancer - “got weaker and weaker” following Linda’s death.

After flying back from Germany in December and while consoling James, Simon watched the 70-year-old “give up his own fight” - dying on January 22.

However he said: “As I sit here now I’m not filled with sadness because of the lives they lost, but proud because of the lives they both lived.”

Linda fulfilling a life-long dream to swim with dolphins

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The couple - both from Fairfield - met in 1984 and settled into a house on Bench Road - with James taking on Simon and his sister Clare following Linda’s separation from their biological father.

As Linda became confined to a wheelchair James gave up his job at Duron Brake Linings to care for Linda, Simon and Clare full-time.

James and Linda, touched by their own experiences and those of others they met at monthly meetings, began fundraising for Multiple Sclerosis Society - raising more than £100,000 over the years.

Linda Downings receives her High Peak Community award, with James, right, and the mayor.

Father-of-one Simon described how fundraising became a way of life for the whole family - as he would help out with charity baking sales, carboots and collecting in the streets.

He said: “My life growing up was filled with helping my mum baking or standing on the streets of Buxton with a collection tin in my hand - it was fun and rewarding to see the benefits that our efforts had on other people.”

However the family also raised money for Fairfield’s St Peter’s Church and “thousands” for Sea Cadets - which Simon attended from the age of 10.

Paying tribute to James and Linda’s parenting Simon said: “Growing up going to school knowing mum was different because of her disability was made normal for me by the way in which my mother and father kept life normal for us at home.”

Sadly, during the last few years, ill health forced the couple to withdraw from fundraising however Simon added: “My mother and father made so many dreams come true.

“My mum even fulfilled one of her dreams by swimming with dolphins in Florida, USA.

“They stayed strong for each other while both battling cancer – now they are both at peace somewhere together and I carry their positive and caring ways with me through my own life.

“I’m proud to have been able to call them mum and dad.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.