Belfast Telegraph

Former Linfield man's tribute to 'big hearted' wife who lost cancer battle

By Brett Campbell

A former Linfield star has paid tribute to his "big hearted wife" who lost her battle against cancer earlier this week.

Lindsay McKeown was speaking at a special memorial event yesterday for his wife Paivi Helena McKeown (nee Lehteva).

He told those attending the poignant celebration of her life at Shandon Golf Club how his wife of 22 years spent her final weeks buying gifts for the many people she'd encountered on her cancer journey.

"She bought them for everyone, from consultants to pharmacists and didn't leave anyone out," he said.

"It wasn't just cheap boxes of chocolates, it was the best wine and finest cheese boards and it typified the kind of woman she was - even though it was with my money."

The Blues' great met Paivi in the summer of 1993 while on a golfing holiday.

The former PA, who once worked with music legends including Van Morrison, U2, Guns N Roses and AC/DC, had been living in Spain, where Lindsay visited occasionally.

"We just bumped into each other, it was a one-off - a chance in a million," he said.

After months of travelling back-and-forward, Lindsay eventually persuaded her to move to Northern Ireland and they were married at a ceremony in Belfast City Hall in March 1995.

"Paivi hated this place but loved the people, so she did well to last so long," he said.

"She made no excuse about that, she always said: 'The people are fantastic but somewhere sunnier would be nicer'."

The grieving father fought back tears as he described the last year-and-a-half as the toughest time of his life and expressed pride in his daughter Nicci who gave up an interview with Emirates to care for her mum.

"I have always been grateful to Paivi for giving the most wonderful daughter, I don't know what I would have done without her for the past 18 months.

"She's cared for Paivi like no one ever could, sleeping on the floor of hospitals, staying up all night doing medicines and changing bandages when she was really ill.

Lindsay also thanked and praised the doctors and care staff who have supported the family since Paivi was diagnosed with the disease last February.

"They were so good - especially at the hospice, where she spent her last eight days," he said.

The couple's 21-year-old daughter recalled her bubbly mother's infectious smile as she told family and friends "no one should have to go through this".

"My mum was such a strong fighter, she wasn't going to give in to cancer without a fight and I admire her for that," she added.

"I will never forget our late night chats and giggles in bed after I finished doing all her medicines, reminding ourselves of all the fun memories we shared.

"I'm so proud to call her my mum, or as she loved me to call her - my mother dearest."

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