‘He was a little man, but was as strong as an ox’ - Wife leads tributes to much-loved Sutton man after 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s
PUBLISHED: 16:28 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:28 01 April 2020
The wife of a Sutton man who died after living with Alzheimer’s for 12 years has led tributes to her husband, saying he was “a little man, but he was as strong as an ox”.
Gerald Linney, known as ‘Gerry’, died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on Sunday (March 29) at the age of 69 and has been married to wife Julie for 45 years.
Having moved to Sutton from Ely in the 1970s, father-of-two Gerry built a reputation with many villagers, particularly during his involvement with the Sutton Reserves football team for over 30 years as player, manager and most recently player-manager, playing into his 50s.
“We were married for 45 years. He was playing football from around 1975 and played right up until his early fifties,” Julie said.
“You cannot say your surname without naming Gerry. Someone knows him in some capacity.
“If you mention his name, someone has worked with him or knows him through football; everyone knows him.”
A bricklayer, groundworker and lorry driver during his career, Gerry, who was one of three siblings, was also an avid Manchester United fan and used to revel in the Red Devils’ success with son Gavin and grandson Dechlan.
But had it not been for a touch of encouragement, he may never have gained an interest in football let alone achieve success on the field, including promotion with Sutton Reserves in the Cambridgeshire County League.
“Barry was into football and that is how he developed an interest in what his brother was doing,” Julie said.
“He got involved with football while still at school. He played most of his football at Sutton and had his beloved Manchester United, somewhat significantly on the side.
“They used to joke that his team was like the Busby Babes because he was managing 15 to 16-year-olds in the men’s league!
“One of the things Gerry would have considered as one of his football things was watching Manchester United win the European Cup. In 2008, he got to watch the match with Gavin and Dechlan.
“He would become animated when Manchester United were on TV, up until the end of last year.”
During Gerry’s diagnosis, Julie alongside granddaughters Kelsey and Natasha have completed memory walks, as well as a charity skydive for the Alzheimer’s Society as their way of showing support for the cause.
But it was not just sport that meant so much to Gerry, and although he was unable to speak as much as he could, he will still leave an imprint on the community he served.
“If he could not speak, you could still tell what he was telling you. His eyes would light up,” Julie remembered.
“We had 12 years that were filled with so much happiness and it was something he lived with. He took it in his stride.
“He loved the people, he loved his family and the people he contacted, but he was not a great socialiser. It was very much his football, his work community and people around the village who he got to know.”
Sometimes Gerry’s family would laugh about memorable moments, which mostly reverberated around football, one common question being ‘do you remember this match?’
A much-loved man who was a student at the Needham’s School in Ely, there were just a few key things that would satisfy Gerry in life.
“There were four things in Gerry’s life – his family, Sutton Reserves, Manchester United and his work. They were the things that meant most in his life,” Julie said.
“At one point, he was working in Cornwall just because he could bring home better money and he was prepared to work away just so he could be working.
“For the last 10 years, we have celebrated every occasion like the last. We did not expect another 12 years as good as they have been. He always had a smile.
“He was not a grand gesture person; he would quietly do his own thing. Not for recognition, but he did it simply because it mattered to him and he would care for the people he loved.”
Gerry leaves wife Julie, brother Barry and sister Mary-Ann, son Gavin and daughter Natalie, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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