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Debbie Neave DOWNS Mail director Debbie Neave (51) lived in Madginford, Bearsted, for 31 years with her husband, Gary, a local plumber. Born Debo-

rah Bourne in Maidstone, she lived lo- cally


whole life, working in accounts for the Nestledown bed factory, Cigna Insurance and Barclays Bank before starting work from home as a childminder. In February 1999, Debbie be-

came the first person taken on by Downs Mail after Dennis Fowle and his daughter Claire Proctor founded the paper. Debbie was mother to Daniel,

Jason and Andrew. She had bat- tled cancer for over nine years and had been given the all-clear from the condition, only for the illness to return 18 months ago. Debbie’s co-director and col- league, Claire Proctor, said: “Deb- bie had incredible strength of character and such a positive at- titude to beating her illness. “She always lived her life to

the full and continued to holiday and have family days that were so important to her. “She was like a mother to some

of our staff and was very sup- portive to all her colleagues and it is typical of her selfless nature that she volunteered as treasurer for Bearsted and Thurnham Car- nival committee and did a vast amount of charity fundraising for causes that helped others. “Her own battle had given her

an insight into the way others suffer and her efforts for charities like the Heart of Kent Hospice and Macmillan raised a lot of money.

“Debbie was never one to com-

plain. She loved her work and was in the office only four days before she died. She was proud to have been our first employee and then a director of our com- pany, and we have all felt her loss.” The funeral was held at St Nicholas’ Church, Otham. Deb- bie leaves her husband, sons and her mother.

We will remember

Ron Button RON Button (89) lived in Maid- stone from 1956, making a sig- nificant contribution to local life as sports groundsman at Mote Park, where he worked from 1956 until his retirement in 1987. Born in Tenterden, Ron served

in Nos. 5 and 82 RAF squadrons during the war.With his wife of 62 years, Merle, Ron raised two children, Linda and Duncan. Ron’s dedication to hiswork at

Mote Parkwas such that his chil- dren remember spending days of their school holidays in “Dad's Park”, helping to put out football nets and golf flags on Sundays and having toasted cheese sand- wiches in front of the old stove in the golf hut. Ron’s coffin was driven through Mote Park on the morning of his funeral. On October 14, 1959, Ron

saved and resuscitated a three- year-old girl drowning in the lake at Mote Park, an action that earned him an award from the Royal Humane Society. His family said: “Ron was a gentleman, and a gentle man: quiet and unassuming, a talented artist and very giving of himself and his time. He was a member of the Maidstone Area Archaeo- logical Group, and enjoyed tak- ing an active part in the work of the RAF Association.” A RAFA standard bearer at- tended Ron’s funeral. Ron leaves his wife, children and grand- daughter Katy.

Natasha Elmes THE wedding of Natasha and Ricky Elmes earlier this year was a day when friends and family contributed to make it a wonderful occasion. Natasha (27), of Sunningdale Court, Maidstone had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She died at the Heart of Kent Hospice on October 9, 11

weeks after her wedding. Natasha, who had previously worked as a chef, met Ricky when the pair were employed at Betsy Clara Nursing Home in Tovil. The couple have a two-year-old son, Reuben. Friends and family paid trib-

ute to the former pupil of All Saints Primary School and Maplesden Noakes School. She leaves her husband and son.

Peter Vowles PETER Vowles (86) lived in Pe- nenden Heath from 1970, mov- ing locally when his ca- reer in the paper indus- try took him to Swan Mill in Swanley. He spent

most of his working life in the industry, progressing to chief purchasing manager and company director at Swan Mills. Born and raised near Sitting- bourne and educated at Borden Grammar School, Peter’s work- ing life began with time in the Royal Marines; he worked for Kent Education Committee and went to work in the paper in- dustry after this. Peter married his wife of 41

years, Gwen, in 1950. The cou- ple raised Lorely, David and Mandy. David Vowles said: “My father led a full life, he played hockey into his late 40s for a works team.My mother died in 1991 and my father remained independent and was very proud of his family. “His knowledge was impres-

sive and he was able to answer all kinds of quiz questions. After being widowed, he met Audrey and they enjoyed cruises and a lot of good times.” Peter leaves his children, Au-

drey, eight grandchildren (one grandchild pre-deceased him), and two great-grandchildren.

John Thirkell JOHN Thirkell (87), ofHaste Hill Road, Boughton Monchelsea, was known locally from his years as secretary of the Kent Friendly Society and his long association with Linton Park Cricket Club. Starting in 1943, he played for

the club for 35 seasons, 25 of them as captain, scoring 17,661 runs in 850 innings, taking 431 wickets and making 360 catches. He also served the club as secre- tary and was closely involved on the two occasions the club played at Lords and won the Vil- lage Cup. After retirement from club ac- tivities in 2005, he still travelled to matches and it was only fail- ing eyesight in recent years that stopped him being involved. Born at Charlton Farm, John

lived locally throughout his life. He served in the RAF just after thewar, but returned to work lo- cally. He was married for 60 years to Nancy, who died in 2011, and was father to Nigel, Timand Simon. Nigel is the current club secre-

tary at Linton Park and three of John’s grandchildren play for the club. Three other grandchildren have also been involved with the club.

Nigel Thirkell said: “My father

loved cricket and was totally in- volved with Linton Park Cricket Club. He is the only person in their history to be appointed as life vice-president. He was very much respected in local cricket.” John leaves his sons and seven grandchildren.

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