Residents of a Cumbrian town are raising funds for life-saving research to mark the tenth anniversary of the sudden death of a beloved former resident.
Joe Linklater was well-known in Egremont, where he played for the Egremont Rangers rugby league team before later becoming a committee member.
But in March 2011, father-of-three Joe suddenly died in his sleep from a cardiac arrest. He was just 53.
“It was just a distressing time,” said Angela Williams, Joe’s fiancée.
“We were extremely happy together and had our wedding set for August. We were also meant to be viewing a house the day after he had died. It was just devastating to lose my soul mate and all our dreams so suddenly.
“Joe had been really active. He was also a big fan of cricket and cycling, but had to give up some of the sports he loved due to a knee injury. However, there was no indication of any other health problems, so his death came as a complete shock.”
One of Joe’s proudest rugby achievements was playing for Egremont Rangers in the 1990 British Amateur Rugby League National Cup Final.
But along with his love of sport, Joe – who worked as a commissioning engineer for Sellafield Ltd – was also devoted to his family, including three children Laura, Graeme and Bethony.
Angela added: “Joe was a real family guy and he adored his children. We were on holiday when his first granddaughter Lucy was born in December before his death, and he was so proud that he bought everyone in the bar a drink.
“Sadly, he’s been unable to meet his other four grandchildren.”
Following Joe’s death and the huge hole it had left, Angela, along with Joe’s family and friends, were determined to turn the tragedy into a positive.
Just months after Joe had died, a memorial event was held at Egremont Market Hall, which helped raise funds to provide heart monitors for the local hospital.
And, knowing that the British Heart Foundation (BHF) funds life-saving research into heart and circulatory diseases, Angela was inspired to turn the tenth anniversary of Joe’s death into a way to give back.
She launched a Facebook group, encouraging people to do their own thing for the BHF in Joe’s memory and help raise awareness of heart health during the month of March.
Friends and family – many from Egremont – joined the group and have held a range of fundraising initiatives, from walking 10,000 steps a day to creating and selling facemasks.
Egremont Cricket Club, who Joe was a member of, have also rallied behind the good cause. Members of the club are planning to cumulatively walk, run and cycle the distance from the club to as many international cricket grounds as they can, with a target to reach the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.
They have already covered more than 4,000 miles so far, virtually reaching The National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan.
And several residents ran a heart-shaped route in Egremont on March 13, marking 10 years to the day since Joe passed away.
“I’ve just been completely blown away by it all,” said Angela, who works in HR for ODEON Cinemas.
“The support really has been incredible. We’re doing this in Joe’s memory but lots of people who have taken part have said it’s boosting their health and fitness, too. We are hoping that this continues as people change their habits to healthier ones.
“We are all so proud to know this money will help the BHF continue to fund its vital research and help families like ours.”
To donate towards the fundraiser, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/angela-williams54