A community has come together to pay an impromptu Christmas tribute to its ‘special angel’.
Big-hearted Gordon Johnstone, of Pegswood, died after a long illness on December 10 at the age of just 52.
The father-of-two was heavily involved in the community, ignoring his own health problems to help others and organise local events, as well as serve on Pegswood Community Action and Newminster Middle School PTA.
Mr Johnstone was also instrumental in bringing about the planting of a village Christmas tree at the Longhirst Road junction, and when news of his death spread, residents began to decorate the blue spruce with baubles and messages in his memory.
Claire Humphrey, of No. 5 Barbers, who placed the first bauble, said: “Gordon was a customer who became a friend.
“The tree was planted because of him and we thought it looked bare. There was no way that Gordon would leave somebody with a tree with nothing on it so that was where the idea came from.
“We got a bauble from our tree and placed it on Gordon’s in the hope that other people would follow suit, and they have. It’s lovely. We used a love-heart to symbolise what Gordon meant to us, but everybody feels the same. If you knew Gordon you would want to put something on the tree.
“He was always so thoughtful and giving, making sure that everyone was ok. He never thought of himself. He always made time for you. He was such a special soul.”
Family friend Michelle Pitcher, who served on Pegswood Community Action with Mr Johnstone, said: “He was just a star. He always went the extra mile and did the best for everybody. He was such a selfless man, always putting other people before himself. Gordon was always there to help, he didn’t need to be asked. I could tell a million stories about the wonderful things he did.
“When you see the baubles on the tree, it’s beautiful. It shows how well thought-of he was. I’ve never known anybody like him. He was a special angel.”
Mr Johnstone had been in and out of hospital for much of his life since falling under a bus at the age of 15. Doctors warned that he wouldn’t survive, but he pulled through and defied the odds to walk again. However, he was to endure operations throughout his life, and long periods in intensive care.
But always his thoughts were for others.
His wife Valerie said: “At times Gordon has been very ill, but he was such a determined person. As soon as he got crutches he would be away finding somebody else who needed help. He would be comforting somebody who was going to have an operation, or encouraging somebody to eat to get better. He would make a difference wherever he could, but never for any personal recognition. He was utterly selfless.”
After his accident, Mr Johnstone went back to the hospital as a volunteer, which set him on his career. He got a job as a hospital messenger, later becoming a porter and then supervisor.
When he retired from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, he was managing porter, catering and transport services for community hospitals, and had received a rare Chief Executive’s Making a Difference award for his dedication.
“Getting things right for the patients and his staff, that was the core of what Gordon did,” said Mrs Johnstone.
“Always at the forefront of his mind was being able to do something for somebody else. He was an incredible, unique man. It was really important to him that his community was looked after and the people around him were looked after.”
Even in Mr Johnstone’s last days he was thinking of others, planting daffodils with the Brownies, and worrying that he would be unable to make his traditional soup for the pensioners’ Christmas party so making alternative arrangements.
His family are now taking comfort from ‘Gordon’s tree’, knowing his efforts were appreciated.
“I feel Gordon never appreciated his own worth,” said Mrs Johnstone.
“He was my husband so I will say fabulous things about him, but I can see that other people feel the same. It is lovely for me and the children, and everybody else who knew Gordon, that we can see how important he was to others.”
Mr Johnstone’s funeral was to be held at St James’s Church in Morpeth on Tuesday, with internment at Traquair Cemetry in Peeblesshire.
As well as Valerie, he leaves children Kate, 11, and Erin, eight.