All of us at the Freeman Heart and Lung Transplant Association wanted to pay tribute to the amazing, Mr Derek Airey, our charity’s Honorary President who sadly passed away.
There have been an abundance of messages left in Derek’s memory, the words repeated are welcoming, kind, friendly, supportive, inspiring, selfless, hard-working, heart of gold, legend, hero……and cheeky! All labels rightly given to Derek, which all stem from him being such a lovely man. So many lives touched through his work over the years at the FHLTA and everyone wanted to share fond memories of the impact Derek had on their lives and their families. He was a man with a huge heart and a wicked sense of humour who loved to play a joke on us, which used to make us all laugh.
There’s a quote that says, “We make a LIVING by what we get and we make a LIFE by what we give”. Derek certainly made a great life and gave so much to us all, especially the FHLTA, for so many years. Derek was the face of the charity, you mentioned the FHLTA and people would think Derek Airey! He was and will continue to be, the main man behind the amazing charity that supports our Freeman Transplant recipients and their families. Back in the mid 1990’s Derek was Vice Chair, moving into the role of Chair in 2000 and then on to be Honorary President a few years ago. A title very fitting to honour his fantastic work within the charity, where he continued, with the rest of us Trustees, to carry out the aims of founders and so much more.
Derek was a huge ambassador for the FHLTA and organ donation, his passion shining through, as well as his personality. With a welcoming face Derek would be there, helping so many families with what is probably the most challenging life event they will ever endure, that bit easier….and why?……..because Derek was such a wonderful, kind hearted man who wanted to help people. He always had time for everyone – no matter who you were, whether you needed support, a chat, a moan or needed help with something, Derek was always there and anything he could do that would make your situation easier he would do it, or find the people who could. Derek was always there recruiting patients to become involved with the charity, in whatever way they could and encouraging new members to join, to drive the FHLTA forward and continue with the vision he had. Without his hard work and passion there would be no FHLTA and without Derek the charity would not be as focused, or efficient or in the strong position it is today. It is unlikely there would be a Freeman Heart & Lung Sports Team if it wasn’t for Derek and his recruitment of patients fresh out of ITU onto Ward 38 and during his regular Sunday night visits (we know that is how at least 3 members of the committee got there)! Derek lived and breathed the FHLTA, which all of us involved in the charity always knew. Derek gave hours of his time to others – sorting the flats, the caravan, on the wards, doing quizzes, transporting families to and from the airport or checking them into their hotels, arranging organ donation awareness teams and more – although we all knew that the main driver and passion in Derek’s life was his family, Pat, his loving wife (who also gave up much of her time to support the FHLTA), his daughter Lynne, his grandkids and great grandkids. Derek was a loving family man and his face always lit up at the mention of them – he was so proud of his family and our heartfelt condolences go out to all of them.
Derek was kind gentleman, loved by all of us and will be a huge miss to his family and our transplant community. We will always hold a special place in our heart and at the heart of the FHLTA. We will ensure the charity continues to thrive in memory of our Honorary President.
So, here’s to the exceptional and unforgettable Mr Derek Airey, who definitely had a life worth celebrating.
Rest now and fly high Derek – you will always be remembered.