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Jeff Dunning, 35, was away with “childhood sweetheart” wife Vicky and their five children aged between nine months and 15 years last month. They were on a break at Robin Hood Centre in Rhyl, north Wales, after Jeff’s mum Joyce Cross died following a battle with cancer. She recently bought the caravan but had never had a chance to visit.
But tragedy struck on August 20 as Jeff collapsed mid-conversation and, despite the best efforts of paramedics, he died in the caravan.
His family and friends are devastated, Liverpool Echo reports, and they’ve paid tribute to the man who was “larger than life”.
Family friend Abigail Ackroyd, who set up a GoFundMe to help with the costs of Jeff’s funeral, said: “Jeff’s mum had been unwell with cancer so she was in the last few months of her life and then she passed away.
“It’s just so terribly sad, I can’t even believe it when I say it.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s real and it doesn’t seem like it’s fair, how he can be there one minute and then then not the next? It’s just not fair.
“Jeff and his family, his wife and five children were all grieving that loss but then Joyce, Jeff’s mum, had a caravan in the Robin Hood Centre that she’d never been able to go to as she was too poorly.
“So they decided as a family to visit while waiting for the funeral to have some family time.”
Jeff died days before his mother’s funeral.
It doesn’t seem like it’s real and it doesn’t seem like it’s fair, how he can be there one minute and then then not the next? It’s just not fair
Abigail Ackroyd, a family friend
Abigail added: “They went down on the Monday and by the Friday morning there were no signs of him being unwell and he’d got up, made some breakfast, went for a walk, spoke to some people on the site and went back to the caravan.
“He was talking to his wife mid-conversation when it happened.
“His wife was there for an hour trying to save him before the air ambulance came and they tried absolutely everything but she already knew that he had gone.”
Abigail says Jeff, of Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, was “like a brother” to her husband and the close friends had all known each other since high school, where Jeff met his wife, Vicky, who he was “devoted” to.
She continued: “They were like childhood sweethearts, Jeff adored Vicky,
“He was hard working, he was the wage earner, that’s why we set up the GoFundMe to help the family with the costs, especially with his mum’s funeral too, we just wanted to help the family not to have to worry about that.
“I can’t even put it into words what a lovely person he was.
“Everybody knew Jeff, he’d talk to anyone, he loved a party and was really down to earth and larger than life, an Ellesmere Port legend.”
Jeff, who was a delivery driver, will be laid to rest on Wednesday. Everyone present will wear blue and white – the colours of his beloved Chester FC.
His cousin, Dan Watson, said: “When he was in the pub on a Friday night, he’d always have loads of people around him, laughing away.
“He was such a well liked guy and very much a family man.
“He passed a few days before his mum’s funeral and they were very close.
“He’d written some lovely stuff about his mum, a beautiful tribute and I read it out for him.
“We were blown away by the amount of friends who came because he couldn’t, he’s got such a good group of friends.
“It (the funeral) will be a celebration of his life and some of his friends and family are going before the funeral to get a tattoo which is a silhouette of our Jeffo, as he was called.
“He had a trademark look, with his beard and hair and that is how he will be remembered and commemorated.
“He’s going to be missed by so many people.”
People can contribute to the fundraiser for Jeff’s funeral here.
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