Creating a colourful tribute to a much-loved colleague

Thurrock memorial garden

Staff at Thurrock Ambulance Station have paid tribute to much-loved former colleague Neil Ruch by creating a colourful mural as the centrepiece of a special garden dedicated to his memory.

The beach design includes two large palm trees, a colourful parrot, a silhouette and a pair of boots, which signify the end of Neil’s last shift.

It forms the focal point of the memorial garden, which has been funded by generous donations from local people and created by staff to give colleagues an inviting space where they can relax during a busy shift.

The mural was designed by EMT Mel Newing, who was Neil’s past crewmate, and former colleague Les Cuthbert, who both used spray paints for the first time to create the piece.

“It was a great honour to be asked to paint the mural in Neil’s memory,” said Mel, who usually works with pencils and pastels. “Neil loved his beach holidays so we were asked to make sure we included a parrot and palm trees, and then came up with three different designs before putting the final choice to a vote.

“Neither of us have used spray paints before but we’re really pleased with how it has turned out and are pretty sure that Neil was giving us a helping hand in the background. The feedback we’ve had from colleagues has been fantastic – people are really chuffed with the mural and have said some really wonderful things about it. Crews have told us that they find it a relaxing place to debrief with a cuppa after a difficult job, which is really nice to hear.

“We hope that the mural will bring a bit of sunshine to our crews on a dull day, while the garden will give them somewhere they can go for a bit of downtime and to remember Neil. We’ll remember him as a cheeky, happy-go-lucky friend who was always up for a laugh and would do anything to help. He was an all-round good guy and we’re honoured to have worked with him.

“We included the boots as it is tradition when you stand down to take your boots off and rest up. Neil always wanted to remind people to ‘live the dream and look after each other’, so as well as remembering him, we hope that the garden will encourage our other colleagues to look after their own wellbeing too.”

The memorial garden includes a patio and seating area where crews can relax between shouts, while planting has also been added.

Published 16th September 2020

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