Tributes have poured in for a former council boss and inspirational sports enthusiast who has died, aged 53, after battling cancer.
Father of three Neil Anthony, of Chevington, was ‘determined till the end’ – even defying doctors’ orders by completing the London Marathon this year in aid of charity.
The day before he died Mr Anthony, who ‘always put his family first’ went to see the Lion King on the West End for his daughter Justine’s 22nd birthday.
His wife Christine, 52, said: “When he did the marathon this year he was only supposed to do six miles but ended up doing the whole lot and that sums him up – he was really determined.”
A keen runner, Mr Anthony completed 15 marathons around the world with a best time of two hours and 57 minutes at Long Beach, California and was a member of West Suffolk Athletics Club with his family. It was his passion for sport which led him to pursue his career in leisure services for local councils.
Originally from West Wickham, in London, he was Sports Contract Manager for Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council and moved to the Bury area 18-years-ago.
He always put his family and other people first.Christine Anthony
He eventually became Head of Leisure, Culture and Communities for St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils – helping to shape the cultural landscape of the area and was involved with the opening of The Apex as well as the Christmas Fayre in Bury St Edmunds.
He was a governor at Risby Primary and Horringer Court Middle Schools.
A spokesman for West Suffolk Athletics Club said: “Neil and his family have been members for many years and before he discovered he had cancer Neil had hoped to support the club, by taking up coaching. He was a staunch supporter of athletics among many sports and leisure activities in the area, including a stint as team manger for the local table tennis club.”
Sport was integral to Mr Anthony’s family life as he met his wife at a PE College in 1981 and his three children followed in his footsteps. When he ran the London Marathon this year, he was joined by his son Jack, 20, and they raised £3,000 for Cancer Research UK.
Mrs Anthony, who is a teacher at Risby Primary School, said: “He had a few days in the hospice in October and was determined to get out to watch our son Seb, 18, run at Mansfield. He came to Dublin three weeks ago to watch me run. Even in the last few months, he would think ‘I will go and do a park run’. He wanted to challenge himself right up until the end.
“He always put his family and other people first. He loved to give advice to people and they really appreciated it. He had an awful lot of knowledge and knew what to do when I was stuck with things.”
A West Suffolk Athletics Club spokesman said Mr Anthony was ‘instrumental’ in transforming the old cinder track in Bury to a modern synthetic version which hosted the English Schools Track and Field Championships in 1999.
They said: “He was a long standing and much loved club member who showed care and compassion for all he had contact with. Neil was even asking how he could help support a young athlete through a difficult time, this just three days before his death.”
John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Council, said: “He helped us achieve a lot of great things on behalf of our communities, and was well liked and highly regarded’. A memorial service will be held on December 21 at 1.30pm at West Road Church, in Bury St Edmunds. Donations via Fulchers will be split between Cancer Research and St Nicholas Hospice Care.