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Coronavirus: Daughter plans 'virtual funeral' so NI relatives of 78-year-old who passed away in Sheffield can say last farewells


Leonard Gibson with his daughters Lisa Broughton (left) and Michelle Lenton

Leonard Gibson with his daughters Lisa Broughton (left) and Michelle Lenton

Leonard Gibson

Leonard Gibson

Leonard Gibson with his daughters Lisa Broughton (left) and Michelle Lenton

The heartbroken daughter of the first known Northern Ireland-born victim of Covid-19 is organising a virtual funeral so that her beloved dad's many relatives in Co Tyrone can pay their respects.

Leonard Gibson (78), who is originally from Fintona in Co Tyrone, tragically died on St Patrick's Day in the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.

Lisa Broughton, his youngest daughter - who suspects she now has coronavirus - told the Belfast Telegraph that she is currently self-isolating, while attempting to draw up funeral plans.

"It's been very difficult because nobody knows exactly what to do," she said.

"Dad is the first person to die from the disease in the Sheffield area so we're not sure what the protocol is.

"It's all new.

"Our plan is to set up a virtual funeral service so our relatives in Northern Ireland can say goodbye."

Lisa added: "Unfortunately we're in a situation of no contact so I couldn't even hug my sister Michelle, who celebrated her birthday on Wednesday, at this dreadful time."

Mr Gibson originally left Northern Ireland when he was 26 for work in England, where he married Lisa's mother Stephanie, who sadly died from cancer when she was 52.

He worked at Orgreave cooking plant and brought up his family in Woodhouse, Sheffield.

The father of two returned home when his marriage broke down in 1984 but he had been back living in South Yorkshire for the last two years.

Mother-of-two Lisa (50), an NHS worker, said the death of her father, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was a huge blow for her and her sister Michelle Lenton (51), a teaching assistant.

"We were in touch with my father quite regularly over the last few days before he passed away ... losing him is very hard," she said.

"My dad's wishes were to be cremated but we're not able to go out and deal with anything because we're in quarantine.

"This is also all new to the funeral directors we're dealing with so we're not sure how to proceed.

"It's so hard."

Lisa, who has a daughter Neve (14) and son Archie (13), said her dad, who was one of 13 children, still has a lot of family and friends in Northern Ireland.

"We've got a relative who's going to collect messages for my dad and put them in a book and send it to us and we're going to put that with my dad," she said.

Her sister Michelle also has a son Josiah, who's in his early 20s, and daughter Tahlia (20), and Lisa said all the children were close to their grandfather.

"It was an emotional build up to my dad's death," she said.

"We all needed each other.

"He was in hospital a couple of days before he passed away on St Patrick's Day, which was so poignant because he loved everything Irish.

"It was lovely to have him back living here for the two years before his death."

Lisa described her dad as "very loving" and said they will all miss him terribly.

"When we walked into his flat he always told us to come and give us a hug," she recalled.

"He always told us to drive carefully, to take care and look after ourselves."

She added that Mr Gibson will be remembered by his nearest and dearest as "kind, loving, generous, crazy and fun-loving".

And she said her father's friends and colleagues in sheltered housing would remember him as "a jolly Irish man who made everyone smile".

She added: "We are all heartbroken. We'll miss him so much. He was such a caring man. Michelle and I have lost both parents now; that's tough."

Lisa, who is now unwell, advised the public to be alert to the symptoms of Covid-19.

"I feel quite poorly; I'd be surprised if I haven't got coronavirus," she said.

"I've got a cough and the aches.

"After what happened to dad, all I know is that we have to take it seriously."

She had some words of warning so that others could "avoid the awful heartache of dad's death from the illness".

"Dad had had a chest infection," she said.

He'd had antibiotics for that chest infection.

"But he was still unwell.

"We have no way of knowing how or when he contracted it."

She added: "My message to the public is question it again.

"Notice the symptoms and take action."

Belfast Telegraph