Staff at the Crawley Observer have joined family and friends to pay tribute to a courageous colleague who fought cancer for two years before succumbing last week.
Averil Coleman, 64, died at home on Monday January 8 with her family at her side.
Described by friends as “an inspiration”, when Averil was diagnosed she was told she had only six months to live.
But she refused to let the disease beat her and continued to report for work in distribution, chatting openly to her friends at the Observer about how she was coping.
Her son Richard said: “She worked for the company since 1977 and she loved her work.
“She had done everything from delivering the papers to selling advertising and getting the papers out to the paper boys.”
Averil started her working life as a hairdresser in Shoreham before moving to Crawley in the 1970s when she married Alan.
The couple had two sons – Richard and Alan – and a daughter who died in infancy. They have five grandchildren.
Recalling his mother’s generous spirit, Richard added: “Nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Everyone who knew her knew she was 100 per cent reliable.
“Even if she was wearing threads she would have made sure you had everything you needed.
“I will miss her phoning up and saying ‘Richard, can I have a quick word’ and then talking for half an hour.”
Observer receptionist Barb Nagle, of Broadfield, said: “She was an inspiration to me – a dear friend and work colleague who made it worth going to work.
“We had known each other for 16 years and she always made my day. She was so brave and kind – and she was mad as a hatter!”
Richard praised the care his mother had been given as she fought the cancer.
He said: “What’s really opened our eyes is the amount of help and support you get – St Catherine’s Hospice was amazing.
“She died at home with her family with her and the hospice made that possible by providing a bed.”
He also recalled one act of kindness which would have meant the world to Averil.
He said: “She loved Lymington in the New Forest and used to go there at least once a month for the weekend.
“She would go to the same room in the same pub every time.
“The nurses at McMillan arranged for her to go there for one more visit.”
Averil’s funeral service will be held at St Richard’s Chapel, Surrey and Sussex Crematorium on Friday (January 18) at 9.45 am.
Family flowers only but donations may be made to St Catherine’s Hospice c/o Co-Operative Funeralcare, Three Bridges.