Tributes paid to swine flu victim

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a Stonehaven man who died after being hit by swine flu.

Gerald Matthew, 42, died after he was rushed to hospital with flu symptoms diagnosed as the deadly H1N1 virus.

The Leader understands Mr Matthew lost his fight against the virus when he also developed pneumonia.

Here a close friend pays tribute to a man whose death is “a gigantic loss” to Stonehaven.

With the untimely passing of Gerald Matthew, the town of Stonehaven has lost one of those larger-than-life characters who have become something of a rarity nowadays. Brought up in Stonehaven, Gerald went on from Mackie Academy to excel at the University of Life. From his early teenage years he developed a passion for all things mechanical, initially tinkering with motor cycles and then developing a deep interest in anything from chainsaws through to snow ploughs and steam engines. Like many of his contemporaries, Gerald was a bit of a young rogue in those days, but those who knew him were aware that beneath the teenage bravado there was a generous heart.

As a country boy, he became skilled with gun, rabbit snare and fishing rod. At first, he tended to regard wild game as being just that, and formal permission to hunt pheasants, partridges, rabbits, hares and salmon was all a bit of a silly inconvenience which he tended to ignore. It would be safe to say that the teenage Gerald enjoyed the thrill of being marginally on the wrong side of the law!

However, a very bonny lass by the name of Diane Ross frae Ury, came into his life at exactly the right time, and they married eighteen years ago. Quietly and without fuss, Diane converted Gerald into a responsible husband and he in turn simply doted on her. By this time, Gerald had gained a reputation as a reliable, hard working and talented driver with the Roads Department at Stonehaven and he proved a true expert at operating, driving or repairing any kind of machinery or heavy plant from the smallest tractor to the largest snow plough. A big guy in every way, Gerald became a very familiar face throughout the Mearns and there is many a snowbound driver who was grateful for his appearance in what for lesser plough operators would have been hopeless whiteout conditions. Yet he was equally at home simply sanding local footpaths, and there was always a cheery wave or even a few minutes worth of craic - or impudent backchat - for those whom he knew along the way.

From the outset, Gerald was aware that his beloved Diane was suffering from MS and as her condition grew steadily worse and she became confined to a wheelchair, his devotion to her and her every need, was truly exceptional. Trips both locally and as far away as London for conventional and alternative medical care, physiotherapy and hyperbaric treatment were regular features, even if money was invariably tight. If he or she ever complained, then it was to very few people if at all. They were blissfully happy, and while still able, Diane would accompany Gerald to Scottish Game Fairs as far apart as Scone and Muir of Ord and to his beloved Vintage Car rallies, where he was in his element admiring, discussing or tinkering with ancient greasy steam engines and other contraptions.

Having made the bold move of quitting the Council to start up his own small plant hire business, Gerald worked all the hours God gave him to provide Diane with comfortable facilities, including substantially adapting their home in Fetteresso Terrace for wheelchair access.

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